VIDEOCONFERENCING AUTHORIZED DUE TO COVID-19

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INTRODUCTION:-

The term “video conferencing” refers to a type of groupware system in which several interactive telecommunications devices are linked together and it allows sort individuals in several locations to talk or interact with one another via video and audio transmission. Video conferencing is additionally called video teleconference.

The use of this kind of communication method has expanded, particularly during pandemics, and has provided benefits such as enhanced productivity, time savings, and teamwork. One of the only advantages of this method is that the supply facilitates all benefits without a requirement of constant face to face communication and travelling.

Videoconferencing enabled the digital workforce, it provided mobility, flexibility and a modern kind of communication over seclusion and offices. The use of videoconferencing in the judiciary of our country has reduced the workload of investigators, attorneys and judges and also acted as a price effective solution for witnesses who had to travel from one city to a special one just for a court proceeding. The evidence to the case could be presented before the judges through the tactic of videoconferencing or other electronic means.

IMPACT ON COURT PROCEEDINGS ABOUT JUDGES AND LAWYERS:-

   India mandated the effective implementations of social distancing to manage the spread of the coronavirus in 2020. The Supreme Court of India and a variety of other High Courts took action to attenuate the physical interaction and presence of the attorneys, employees, and every additional legal faculty. We’ll research and see that the laws under the Indian Constitution don’t have any special provisions for video conferencing. On the other hand, there was a desperate need for a judicial fraternity to remain available[1].

The pandemic increased our dependence on technologies; the concept of e-court was required within the duration of this pandemic. Under the Indian Constitution, there is no legislation related to data protection.

The Judiciary of India through various judgments laid down various guidelines for videoconferencing because of the lack of provisions for this fact. Within the case Amitabh Bagchi vs. Ena Bhagchi[2], the Court had held that the word “presence” specifically doesn’t mean the actual physical presence. Hence, it had been later held that videoconferencing is indeed a time-saving process and price-effective method.

SO HOW ALSO DOES A COURT FRAME A HARMONIOUS POLICY ON THE APPICATION OF VIDEO CONFERENCING ?

The threat of denying access to justice is only too egregious. In a country where people struggle to pierce indeed the general public Distribution System, it might be delusional to base a model of adjudication on high-speed internet.

Rather, courts could borrow a point-grounded system supported objective criteria to assess whether matters should be heard through videotape conferencing. I suggest a system supported the posterior parameters:-

  • Nature of Action for case– given the petitioner’s often lower access to treasuries, video conferencing may be the dereliction for consumer litigation, arbitration proceedings, and corporate cases. In other cases, the supplicant should tend to an option between videotape conferencing or an in-person hail, subject to the court’s timetable.
  • Litigant– For all individual petitioners, courts can bear attorneys for the parties altogether pending and new cases to file a protestation specifying whether videotape conferencing may be a feasible volition with specific regard to factors like the technological complication of the appellant or the counsel, the income of the parties, and any specific disabilities precluding the use of videotape-conferencing installations. Courts might be flexible in allowing one party to deal with arguments via videotape conferencing while allowing the contrary party to deal with arguments face to face on a slated date.
  • HearingThe Supreme Court has stated that videotape conferencing should be mostly used for appellate or trial arguments and not for recording substantiation unless there is unified agreement. Still, video conferencing is frequently effectively used indeed at the stage of the trial in high-value marketable matters. The Delhi Supreme Court formerly has Videotape-Conferencing Guidelines, introduced in 2018, for foreign petitioners and substantiations, which might be acclimated to be used during the trial in marketable matters.
  • Thus, courts could encourage the use of videotape conferencing in the least stages of high-value marketable matters, while being conservative in other forms of action where one among the parties is vulnerable or where there is an outsized difference between the parties to the action.

So, summarizing broadly, it is often said that the E-courts in India are digitized courts which, using the knowledge and communication technologies (ICTs) and thus the online, provide online information to varied stakeholders. Such online information could even be a one way or two-way communication. One-way information involves the courts providing information online, like every possible information as made available on a court’s website. It also includes sending information to a person through any commonly used electronic mode like SMS or Whatsapp. Whereas two-way traffic, as an example, includes online interaction among the litigants and lawyers and thus the courts. After the success of E-courts, there was no urgency in moving forward and things had been moving at their own bureaucratic pace within the implementation of E-judiciary in India. Nonetheless, the COVID-19 disaster, due to its safety protocol norm of social distancing, started nudging the judicial administration to wish a quicker leap from the current stage of E-courts and jump to the subsequent level.  In fact, as an instant consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, after E-courts we are now witnessing a replacement impetus to leapfrog from E-courts to E-judiciary as a preferred mode of justice administration in courts at various levels because the next examination of the courts’ responses to COVID-19 illustrates[3].

Even before the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis, E-courts had also become quite common in many other countries of the world including the US-South Africa, Singapore, then on. In India, as in other countries, the E-courts were already playing a crucial role in avoiding unnecessary congestion within the courts by giving opportunities to stakeholders to interact online with courts — a requirement that had arisen and had become more of a necessity much later under the safety protocols of the COVID-19 emergency. However, E-judiciary could be a step beyond E-courts.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF A VIDEOCONFERENCE COURT IN INDIA:

Video conferencing in Indian courts has been used for specific cases, as an illustration, cross-examination is outstation or in bail cases, since the accused is in jail. In these cases, the appliance of videotape conferencing saves time, value and a rich person. Still, it is vital to keep in mind that the appliance of videotape conferencing at duration the bench ought to be designed keeping in mind the courts’ obligation to generate impartial and beneficial righteousness. To support the appliance of videotape conferencing at intervals in the system, it would be essential that the court didn’t seem as if it were an online platform meeting throughout an everyday workplace. Given however vital the physical setting of a court is to the conduct of trials, virtual courts ought to as much as potential act as a physical court. Videotape conferencing often creates the dereliction if substantiation lives throughout a special position from wherever the trial is passing or options a physical or interior condition that makes their physical look in court delicate, two-handed no party objects. In critical circumstances when the identity of the substantiation who is attending must be protected, videoconferencing can be applied and used.

All the legal bodies like attorneys, judges, substantiations, may feel at ease while conducting proceedings online. The screen for the videoconferencing must be set up to look as much like a courtroom as possible. The platform ought to additionally suit pointers for Indian Government Websites so that folks with disabilities will use it effectively. What additionally should be unbroken in mind is that videotape conferencing is just a one-front finish side digitization at intervals in the judiciary. However, videotape conferencing should be amid alternative processes like filing online document operation etc, if the installation of technology is to be exercised to make judicial processes less problematic. Courts additionally ought to come back up with a frame to create a call which type and nature of cases and stages are most applicable for the appliance of videotape conferencing. Parties ought to be able to request judges of the Court to appear through videotape conferencing instead of showing face to face.

THE ADVANTAGE OF VIDEOCONFERENCING IN TRAILS?

 On the establishment of the tactic of videoconferencing within the Indian judiciary, several methods were discovered, including no requirement of the physical appearance of the clients, judges and thus the attorney to the cases.

Remand, civil and criminal proceedings, and bail applications all benefited greatly from video conferencing. It’s one of the simplest blessings of technology in the pandemic situation of our country. The foremost advantage of the e-court proceedings are: –

  • Workload of investigators reduced – within the scenario of pre-pandemic, transporting a criminal from prison to court-involved plenty of risks. There used to be a chance for them to escape or flee away. Upon the invention of videoconferencing, the workload of the investigators or the police was reduced to a quite large extent. We’ve often heard about the facts of police encounters, because of the varied trial proceedings, the situational trend of encounters, especially the fake ones also reduced.
  • Court expenses – this is often the foremost important advantage. Within the duration of the pandemic, everyone wanted to avoid wasting lots of money, even the advocates. Not only was this method saving time but also was cost-effective and ensured the safety of the judges, attorneys and clients. This method of videoconferencing helped the witnesses to testify from their respective areas, geographical locations and hence saved plenty of travel expenses. It also ensured that the norms of social distancing were being strictly followed. Many people might still think this technology is still expensive either way because it required high program devices and speed internet for no interruption, but it had been a huge tool to avoid wasting lots and lots of costs within the top of the day video conferences. We can highlight some words of Justice Chandrachud – not only did videoconferencing facilitate access to justice for various geographical areas but it also was proven cost-effective.

CONTRIBUTION OF STATE IN FUNDING THIS METHOD FOR TRAILS:-

Ever since the state suffered the problems because of pandemic and lockdown was imposed throughout the country to put an impression over the spread of COVID-19, till the highest of the month September, several courts of appeal and district courts of India have heard over 29 lakh cases via videoconferencing, according to date received from the Union Law Ministry.

The government had initiated the procedure of retrieving about 1100 additional video conferencing licenses at an approximate price of Rs. 7 crores to supply proper facilities to law members, including high courts and district courts. On record, about 20000 cases have already been heard via videoconferencing by the Delhi Supreme Court and its subordinate courts during the pandemic period. We’ll identify through research made on the supreme court’s decision to possess the trials over videoconferencing that about 19 lakh cases are heard in almost 1900 District Courts, and thus the assumed cases are heard everywhere in India via videoconferencing is 26 lakhs. The very proactive behaviour towards the applicability of video conferencing especially within the pandemic time of our country was a crucial step. This provided the next of the social distancing norms also because of the legal fraternity and thus the general public some sense of security.

On dated- 3rd , the highest of the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India, Justice D.Y.Chandrachud had conducted a meeting with several judges that represented their respective High Courts so on possess the discussion over what essential measures could be haunted by all the courts to look after and handle the cases in their respective jurisdiction.

We all know that the pandemic was a time of utter despair, with the entire works experiencing a high death rate and thus a lack of proper medical facilities. During the Suo Moto case, the Supreme Court of India issued several required orders and directions because of the video conferencing, concerning the principle for judicial processes and the functioning of all levels of courts during the National emergency lockdown in effect.

The Supreme Court of India issued the directives to conduct Court hearings via videoconferencing in the exercise of its power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, which is granted to the Supreme Court. The principles stated that every one the courts of the state are then authorized to need necessary methods to carry out the court hearing and perform proper court proceedings via videoconferencing. Further, the principles stated that every one the district court shall adopt the model of the videoconferencing directed by the concerned supreme court, and each one the required steps must be taken care of the Supreme Court and thus the supreme court to avoid the physical presence of all the required stakeholder within the premises of the court to require care of the norms and guidelines of the social distancing also. The presiding officers to the court shall not have the power to prevent the entry of any party until suffering from any disease. Also, the officers had the power to limit the number of litigants. It had been also stated within the rules that until there were appropriate laws framed by any upper-class Court, video conferencing shall be maintained mainly to concentrate on the court pleadings and arguments be it a trial-level or appellate stage[4].

Self Opinion:–

We all must agree that the Constitution of India is semi-rigid and versatile. With time the Indian judiciary found other ways to conduct court proceedings via online videoconferencing. These processes may have clothed to be very problematic for the folks that are technologically retarded but in overall statistics, the principles of getting the trials and court proceedings online have served a much better chance for our future. The selection of the Supreme Court about introducing the online system of holding courts is very beneficial since it’s proven not only time saving but also cost-effective. Following the norms of social distancing during the covid pandemic, the necessity of safety of the citizens of India was a significant concern, but even therein situation crimes are happening. The upbringing decision of the Supreme Court took care of it, completely providing safety and security to the clients, witnesses, legal employees, judges and thus the advocates. Regardless of all the circumstances, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a replacement hope and better opportunity to rethink the use of technology within the delivery of the judiciary of the country. The Government of India authorized the system of videoconferencing and all the Courts in the nation encouraged this usage of the teleconferencing methods.  We can notice that the thought of digital India has served a much better way of development altogether in the sectors of our country. The take-over of video conferencing not only stops at the judiciary system of India but also the corporate sectors and education system. Like every coin has two sides, so did this method of technology. The establishment of videoconferencing took over the education system completely which made the students under-confident about physical exams. Henceforth, there are many conditions to be kept in mind when it comes to the digital world but watching the results of the judiciary, the establishment of videoconferencing provided an honest solution to possess the court trials and hearing even during the pandemic guaranteeing the COVID-19 norms to be obeyed and therefore ensured the protection of the country.

Video conferencing technology has been a helpful tool during the Covid-19 pandemic, existing researchers suggest intentions to take attention towards the development or the long-term adoption of the remote court proceedings. More research is important, both about the potential impact of remote technology on outcomes during a diverse range of cases, also because of the advantages and drawbacks concerning access to justice. As the Courts were to improve policies for the development of remote proceedings of the trials, they had to put in review the decision with the attorneys, various community leaders, also discussion with public prosecutors and lawful service providers were crucial.


[1] The Impact of Video Proceedings on Fairness and Access to Justice in Court

By Alicia Bannon, and

Janna Adelstein

[2] AIR 2005 Cal 11, (2004) 3 CALLT 263 HC

[3] Video Conferencing – A Step Towards The E-Future For The Legal Fraternity?

09 June 2020 by Sonam Mhatre and Shambhawi Sinha

Dhaval Vussonji & Associates

[4] https://m.economictimes.com/news/india/covid-19-delhi-hc-resumes-full-fledged-physical-hearings/amp_articleshow/87850136.cms

Author: Dipayan Dutta, Indian Institute of Legal Studies, NBU

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India

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