While digital courts might be the new normal, artificial intelligence and cloud-based infrastructure will be the way forward in modernising the Indian judicial system. The old tenets of freedom of judiciary and safeguarding the rights of the people shall always be kept at the forefront, according to the leaders present at the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the Gujarat High Court, reports ANJALI JAIN.
he Prime Minister on February 6 attended a virtual conference held on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of the Gujarat High Court. A commemorative postage stamp released by the Dak Bhawan for this occasion was unveiled by the PM during the conference. The event marks the completion of 60 years of the Gujarat HC on May 1st, 2020. The event had to be postponed and held virtually due to the pandemic.
Those in attendance included the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, Chief Minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani, Supreme Court judge MR Shah and several sitting judges and advocates of the Gujarat High Court.
After unveiling the commemorative stamp, the PM noted: “Our judiciary has always interpreted the Constitution positively and creatively to strengthen it further. Be it safeguarding the rights of people of the country or when any situation arose where national interest needed to be prioritised, the judiciary has always performed its duty.” He further added that the root of every independent nation is in the provision of justice and the rule of law.
Modi commented that it is the responsibility of both the government and the judiciary to create a world-class judicial system in the greatest democracy in the world. He said, “Our Judicial system should be such that even the person living on peripheries of society should have equal access to it, and that justice is guaranteed to every citizen and is delivered timely.”
Atma Nirbhar Digital Courts
Much of Modi’s address focused on the digitalisation of the judicial system and the role the Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign shall play in this process. The scope of Artificial Intelligence in improving the speed and efficiency of judicial procedures and making them ready for the future was also highlighted by him.
“We are enhancing cloud-based infrastructure that will not only enhance ‘ease of justice’ but also enhance ‘ease of living’ of the people in the country,” he added.
Modi has claimed that during the lockdown, the Supreme Court of India has obtained the top position in the world in hearing cases digitally. Obtaining information related to any case has been eased out by providing a unique identification code and QR code for all cases. This has cemented the national judicial data grid, through which lawyers and litigants view all the orders and cases through just a click, he added. By convincing foreign dignitaries of the protection of their judicial rights, this system will be a contributor towards increasing the ease of doing business in India, claimed the PM.
The PM highlighted the digitalisation of the Gujarat High Court during the lockdown through not on video conferencing, but by also introducing provisions such as SMS call outs, e-filing of cases, email my case status and video streaming of court display boards on YouTube. “All of this has proven that our justice system is very adaptive and its efforts to deliver justice are very far-reaching,” he added.
Growth of the Judicial System
In his address, the Advocate General commented how the Prime Minister’s “passionate and dynamic leadership has made the whole world to take note of the emergence of new India.” He added that “even during this pandemic, his confidence and conviction has inspired and galvanised the entire nation.” While complimenting the leadership and dexterity of the chief justice, he congratulated the court on conducting cases regularly and effectively during the pandemic through live streaming, which was pioneered by the Gujarat High Court.
The Solicitor General noted that the “institution of the judiciary had progressed leaps and bounds since its inception” and highlighted the pivotal role that the executive plays in ensuring the success of any judicial institution, in terms of infrastructure and financial manpower. While touching upon the history of the judicial system in India, Tushar Mehta talked about the accelerated growth of the role of the executive through an exponential increase in the number of courts, judicial officers and budgetary allocations in the last two decades.
While addressing the event, Supreme Court Judge MR Shah referred to Modi as a “popular, loved, vibrant and visionary leader.”
He said, “I am glad and feel proud and privileged to participate in this important function of release of the commemorative stamp of Gujarat High Court on completion of its 60 years and that by our most popular, loved, a vibrant and visionary leader, Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendabhai Modi. I consider it a very special privilege to be part of this function,” said Justice Shah speaking on the occasion.”
While expressing his pride at beginning his judicial career with the Gujarat High Court, Justice Shah noted that this court has always “stood for the independence of the judiciary and the protection of human rights whenever required.”
He added that “even in the dark days of the emergency, judges of this court stood for the protection of human rights and the protection of the judiciary.”
Union Minister Ravi Shankar claimed while upholding the tenets of e-courts and digital India, the Gujarat High Court has carried out digital court proceedings in 1, 21, 000 cases during the pandemic, while its subordinate courts have held court proceedings for over 90, 000 cases.
While touching upon Modi’s flagship campaign Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Shankar said that the Gujarat High Court is really ahead in fast-tracking cases related to justice for women and children. The postal department’s contribution during the pandemic to deliver medicines and logistics was also complimented by him.
While ensuring the government’s commitment towards an independent judiciary, the Union Minister too ended his speech by remembering the emergency and the leadership role that Modi played as a student activist in upholding specific freedoms, namely the freedom of the individual, of the media and of the judiciary. He also said that while governance and law-making should be left to those that have been elected by the people, the lawmakers should not be safeguarded from being held accountable.
(Anjali Jain is a journalism student at the Symbiosis Institute for Media and Communication, Pune and an intern with The Leaflet.)