Battle against Coronavirus is a major concern. Since the nationwide lockdown took place, Courtrooms around the world have been closed to prevent COVID 19, the pandemic. For years courtrooms have witnessed an infinite number of cases, it is a place which is always jam-packed, it has always maintained decorum and holds the pillars of justice for many off us.
NEED OF THE HOUR: DIGITALIZATION OF COURTROOMS IN INDIA

Sherlin Varghese

Second Runner Up, National Article Writing Competition 2020

Organised by Fores Legal


Battle against Coronavirus is a major concern. Since the nationwide lockdown took place, Courtrooms around the world have been closed to prevent COVID 19, the pandemic. For years courtrooms have witnessed an infinite number of cases, it is a place which is always jam-packed, it has always maintained decorum and holds the pillars of justice for many off us. Due to the COVID 19, handful of courts have shut their courtrooms and have adopted a new and different platform to adhere to their responsibilities towards the citizens. Judges and lawyers of the court have come together through the help of technology, to provide legal help to those in need 1 . If the courts continued to operate during the pandemic, then chances of cross-contamination could have taken place. Therefore, social distancing should be maintained and be given the utmost priority. Precaution is required at every step even if it means to avoid gatherings in a large number.

Technology at rescue

When the lockdown was implemented, it was time for the judiciary to strategize new norms and new protocols to ensure that the functioning of the courts and the constant communication continued, therefore virtual apps such as the Zoom app, MS Team, hangout, etc., were used for tele and video conferencing, e-Courts services app is also available for the legal teams to check the status of the cases pending in high courts and lower courts 2 . It is important to realize that technology should not be looked down upon, because it is a bridge connecting us towards progress if used efficiently. There is a potential for everything going digitalized in the coming future, therefore it is necessary to accept the changes. Before the lockdown, virtual meetings almost seemed impossible for the legal advisors around the world, as everyone was used to open courtrooms without realizing someday a pandemic like Samanwaya Rautray, Coronavirus: SC orders closure of lawyers; chambers, only one court to function virtually, The Economic Times (March. 24, 2020, 08:04 AM)

 Debashish Pachal, Tracking cases using eCourts Services app: How to use it and is it useful, Indian Express (March. 18, 2020, 04:52 PM)

COVID 19 can give lawyers a whole new approach to argue and defend their clients from the safety of their homes, in front of the judges through the help of digital platforms. Well it is difficult but not impossible to work as a legal team when working from home. Recently a lawyer for the petitioner appeared in video conferencing with the magistrate, dressed inappropriately (the lawyer was wearing anundervest in the online meeting). The matter was adjourned by the judge because of the inconvenience caused by the advocate 3 . A virtual meeting can be successful only if everyone who is involved in the meeting maintains certain decorum which is required. Few crucial pointers should be adhered to when video conferencing with honourable judges and lawyers, such as: -

 During tele or video conferencing, everyone should be on time, being late shows a

lack of punctuality, which indicates how less interested they were in the first place to

attend it.

 Everyone in the online meeting should appear in a proper uniform.

 It is important to be focused and alert; presence of mind is required to understand the

case on which the argument is going on in the online meeting.

 One should ensure before the meeting begins to check their internet or Wi-Fi

connectivity to avoid any kind of disturbance.

 The legal advisors should speak loud and clear for the adjudicator and others to

understand.

 Distraction should not occur. Therefore, eye contact is very crucial. The options on

the app toconnect to video conferencing and the audio of the speaker should not be off

or mute. As attentiveness and attention is the key to focus on the case.

 Be patient and calm to provide justice in these difficult times.

 Chaos should not be entertained and strict action should be taken against who creates it.

Only urgent cases are being discussed through digitalization

As the access to the courts gets restricted due to lockdown, many cases are not being discussed through video conferencing. As we all are new to this pandemic, no one expected the impact of it being for so long, therefore current situations required the jurisdiction to act accordingly and they came up with the plan of focussing on major cases only. The general public should understand the dilemma, and if their cases were to be heard during the lockdown period, then they don’t have to worry about missing the date of hearing. According to the Limitation Act, 1963; if the limitation period of a certain date of hearing is expired or is about to and if the court is deemed to be closed and one is not able to go and file the case, then usually when the court reopens on the next day, the filing of the case can be done . But in the current situation this is not possible because of the lockdown. Therefore, after the lockdown ends, the next working day, one can go to the court and get the date of their hearing or can file a case, if their case’s date expired during the limitation period. Another problem, which is a major concern, is the increase in the number of domestic violence cases, sexual abuse cases in the country. Jury trials and bail applications are also suspended for a while. Until then courts are expected to run virtually.

Digitalization of courtrooms should be encouraged as who knows when and where hidden viruses like COVID 19 can arise to disrupt our daily lives again. Therefore, it is crucial to educate and make people aware of the importance of technology and using it for providing justice can lead to progress, it should not be considered as a step back but a step forward for a better future. When digitalization improves our skills to connect with people, then every case should be considered to be heard on this platform. Unnecessary prioritization of cases should not happen. Inadequate exercise of judicial power should not be entertained. Even after the lockdown ends, courtroom decency and courtesy should be maintained. The importance of providing disinfectants and sanitizers in the court should take place. Everyone should wear masks and gloves and keep the courtrooms clean and railings wiped because it is very essential to be extra cautious. Lockdown and Social distancing are like a double-edged sword and it is time to learn how to use this sword with the help of digitalization in the courtrooms. Till then, feedback and information should be collected on how lockdown helped us in achieving success in cases through digital platforms. We have the administrative and social capacity to offer to the world and the next generation through this platform.