Supreme Court emerged as global leader in virtual hearings: Centre tells Parliament

THE Central Government Wednesday informed Parliament that the Supreme Court of India had emerged as a global leader by conducting 96,239 virtual hearings till July 7, 2021, since the beginning of the lockdown in 2020.

High Courts across the country held 36,47,381 hearings and subordinate courts held 67,85,877 hearings virtually till May 31.

The government also told Parliament that since the COVID lockdown, District Courts had heard over 74 lakh cases, while High Courts had heard over 40 lakh cases through the virtual mode.

Whether open physical courts will operate along with virtual hearings in a hybrid model, the government said, was an administrative matter which fell within the purview and domain of the judiciary.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju was responding to questions raised by Member of Parliament(MP) Sumedhanand Saraswati regarding the total expenditure so far in implementing an information and communication technology-based system in high courts and the Supreme Court.

The Minister said the government was implementing the e-Courts Mission Mode Project throughout the country for Information and Communication Technology enablement of the district and subordinate courts.

“The total expenditure during eCourts Project Phase- I was Rs. 639.41 crore. During Phase-II of eCourts Project, as against total outlay of Rs. 1670 crore, the total expenditure so far has been Rs. 1582.20 crore out of which a sum of Rs. 1150.56 crore has been released to the High Courts till 31st May 2021”, the Minister added.

Parliament was also told that 12 Virtual Courts in nine states had been operationalized to handle traffic challan cases. More than 72 lakh cases had been handled by 12 virtual courts and online fines of Rs. 159 Crore had been realised till 08.07.2021.The Delhi High Court had set up 34 Digital Courts dealing with Negotiable Instruments Act cases.

The government added that Video Conference (VC) facilities had been enabled between 3240 court complexes and corresponding 1272 jails.

It said seven platforms had been created for disseminating real-time information on case status, cause list, judgments etc. to lawyers and litigants viz. a multilingual and disabled-friendly eCourts Portal, eCourts Mobile App and JustIS App for judges, Automated emails, SMS Push and Pull Service, Judicial Service Centres and Information Kiosks.

As of 28 May 2021, 30,781 Advocates and Advocate Clerks and 4006 advocate master trainers were trained by the e-Committee in coordination with the respective State Judicial Academies, the government said.