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Trending: Call for Papers Volume 3 | Issue 2: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]

Justice through screens- Analysis of Virtual Courts

 

With the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in March 2020, the whole planet was placed on lockdown, and citizens were forced to remain inside their houses. Excluding hospitals, each organization was closed down. It was no different in courthouses. To combat the risk of COVID-19, courthouses were also completely shut.

The judiciary or legislative structure of a nation performs a critical function in the overall management of the nation The judicial system not only guarantees fairness and equality but also protects a nation’s dignity. If the administration of judgment is halted, severe disorder and disrespect for the legislation will ensue. Individuals assume that the repercussions of any wrongdoing may contribute to a pause of punishment, and because “justice delayed is justice denied,” this will not only result in the perpetrator escaping with his actual crime, as well as in the complainant’s privileges being overlooked.

To prevent the nation from devolving into criminality, the Indian judicial structure chose what has come to be known as “the new normal.” Courthouses have made the decision to operate from homes. They agreed to use web conferencing to hear the serious matters.

In India, nearly 27 million lawsuits are awaiting approval. Because the actual closing of the tribunal will just start piling up the unresolved appeals the proposal to take cases electronically is praiseworthy. The judicial cases would not be halted in this manner, and personal distance will be preserved.

WHAT ARE VIRTUAL COURTS?

The title of the virtual courtroom indicates what it really is. It includes online hearings and proceedings, as well as online dispute resolution. Judges listen to the cases made by attorneys, and jury questions are often addressed remotely. The use of digital dispute resolution and hearings is preferable to the complete closing of the judiciary.

The concern now is whether the tribunal can proceed in this manner after Covid-19?

When we glance, back in history we will see that the idea of e-courts is indeed not completely modern. The e-courts initiative, which aims to digitally and technologically advanced court system, was introduced keeping in mind the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary-2005.” Aside from that, in the pre-COVID-19 period, several justices held hearings or e-court via teleconferencing in some proceedings. Many proceedings that fell under the Illegal Practices Protection Act or even other incidents wherein officials had reason to believe that bringing such inmates on appeal out of jail might cause a breach to common stability and control; in these contexts, the proceedings were often conducted digitally. CrPC or the code of criminal procedure 1973 has a separatesection, primarily 167 (2)(b), as modified by the “Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008”.This particular partincludes requirements for digital video communication as an alternate means for bringing an offender to trial.

However, this was an option instead of a requirement down then, as it is now. Now since the vaccination has been publicised, it’s critical to evaluate whether or not the virtual courtroom can begin after COVID-19. Prior to actually making any rash decisions, we must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of digital proceedings.

Once we consider the positive aspects of e-courts, it is undeniable that they are time and budget effective. The majority of the time, individuals reside in places that are physically far from the courthouse where they would present for the trial. A mere conviction does not resolve a dispute. These are numerous hearings that are mostly stretched over a period of years. Traveling to and from the tribunal and returning to someone’s home is indeed expensive and moreover time – intensive. Time is a precious commodity in some fields. Take physicians, for instance; by using digital listening, physicians in remote and sometimes even metropolitan centers could reduce a great deal of time commuting and spend it in their treatment. Because of digital listening, senior citizens who find it difficult to drive frequently benefit greatly.

The digital jury can be very efficient and helpful in legal litigation familial disputes, and other situations whereby all that is required is to respond to the claims, no verbal testimony from participants, and only warrant requests.

Digital trials may also be effective and energy-saving throughout the initial stages of a lawsuit, where advocates just have to present evidence and there is no cross-examination.

A further advantage of e-courts would be that it guarantees the defendant’s privacy. In instances of horrific offences important informants are often in jeopardy since they are crucial to the prosecution. They could remain protected at homes and participate in the proceeding via virtual trials.

Numerous cases of inmates collaborating with the external entities and fleeing mostly during transportation of inmates between their cells to courthouses for hearings have occurred during several proceedings. This could be avoided if they observe the hearing from the jail facilities through the internet.

Besides the benefits, digital listening has a number of drawbacks.

Let us just start with the Open Court House element. In an Open Court House structure, the audience is eligible to observe the courtroom’s pending prosecution or trial. Open Court House cannot be held in the digital judicial process, which has an effect on undergraduates who have chosen law as a field, students who are doing a study in a specific trial as well as young practitioners who really wish to witness judicial hearings in open court.

Let us just take a look at cross-examination of a complainant or a participant in a lawsuit. Without a question, improvisational interrogation in the normal method of testimony, i.e. physically, will yield the greatest outcomes There is indeed a significant possibility of unfair hearings in virtual courts because plaintiffs or participants may well be trained or hold any information with them just to address the doubts posed before being recognised by the judge.

Since we all realize, the majority of India’s citizens lives in remote regions Neither those places nor the citizens who live there are technologically equipped as they must be in order to lodge a complaint electronically as well as undergo an internet trial. We can’t just set up digital hearings before considering the challenges which the majority of the society encounters.

A further major question about e-courts is confidentiality concerns Internet piracy has increased in tandem with the emergence of interactive methods of thinking. Unlicensed internet accessibility to person’s private information is becoming widespread. According to several sources, nations that have a specific teleconferencing network have exposure to the sessions, gatherings, workshops, and other events that take place on that network. This presents a significant threat in the prosecution of lawsuits digitally, as file includes individual’s confidential information could be stolen, and digital hearings of proceedings of political significance and global defense could be infiltrated by hostile countries

Whenever it relates to severe crime proceedings including assault or manslaughter, it’s neither safe nor prudent to hold the proceeding electronically because these proceedings involve the documentation of the victim’s eyewitness history, which can be easily exploited or tampered with using formatting as well as various electronic resources.

The legal framework has effectively entered the virtual environment thanks to COVID-19. Nevertheless, abovementioned points could possibly be used to argue that, whereas such moves towards digital trials are impressive, these are not quite as fulfilling as they should become. As a result, we may infer that digital trials are both helpful and ineffective. Although we can and must hold digital hearings in certain cases, there are plenty of others where that’s not feasible and requires the tribunal to administer itself physically. In the post-COVID-19 age, digital as well as actual listening will coexist in some situations. Also with advent of the second phase of coronavirus throughout India, this outbreak appears to be anything other than over; hence, there really is no choice but to hold trials electronically.

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AUTHORED BY: SARAH AZAD

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