This article is written by Abhishree Paradkar, a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune
On Saturday, Senior Advocate Shyam Diwan said that it would be more accessible as well as cheaper for litigants if court proceedings were conducted through videoconference. Advocate Diwan was speaking at a symposium that was organized by the CAN Foundation in partnership with the National Law University of Jodhpur as well as Gujarat National Law University on the topic of “Strengthening Doorstep Justice Augmenting Access to Virtual Courts”.
The event was also attended by Supreme Court judge, Justice V. Ramasubramanian, NLU Jodhpur Vice-Chancellor Poonam Saxena, Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, GNLU Director Dr. S Shanthakumar, and CAN Foundation CEO Siddharth Gupta.
Brief Overview of Advocate Diwan’s Speech
Diwan took a prompt from Justice V Rabasubramaniam’s example, where, he spoke about robotic courts that exist in China. He said that we are looking at a value system and considering if we want robotic justice. He even questioned whether the constitution allows such a thing because a lot of things can be understood in the terms of providing access to justice through such means.
He spoke about how China is a good example for providing swift justice. He compared it with ATMs, which we take for granted. Similar to ATM’s where we can immediately withdraw money, there are justice delivery kiosks that operate on artificial intelligence all across China, including its rural areas and a huge number of petty, minor and at times, even major cases are solved in that manner. The AI system also provides a statistical response about the litigants’ chances of success. The judges are also provided with the aid of precedents, etc. The senior lawyer emphasized how cheap and accessible this format of justice is. The lawyer highlighted it to be a remarkable measure and called it revolutionary just like the consumer courts.
He said that one of the greatest advantages of having large technological changes which include AI coming into the picture is the increased access to justice. He argued that one must not look at virtual courts from the point of view of video screens only but from a larger perspective which includes sweeping technological changes. He said that in terms of economy, virtual courts are extremely cheap when it comes to providing access to justice. Therefore, such a type of efficiency must be encouraged.
Considering the digital divide, Diwan agreed with Justice S Murlidhar that many courts have adopted the new technology in the past two years for continuing providing justice to the litigants. However, this experience of digital literacy is not uniformly shared across the country. There is also tremendous resistance from honorable judges from even constitutional courts due to the fear of technology. There are other factors as well that make people reluctant to rely upon technology.
He also added that the adverse impact of increasing technology might lead to robotic justice. He stated that virtual courts will make access to justice a lot cheaper and if it is considered from the standpoint of a litigant, it will be economically better. However, it must be ensured that fair adequate hearings are not compromised, as well as procedural laws are also preserved.
He then addressed the concerns that were raised by a lot of young lawyers who were joining the bar at the times of virtual hearings and also added that juniors have a lot to learn during open physical quarterings.
Therefore, in his opinion, the solution to the following problem would be to make the gradual transition towards virtual courts.
He said that the LLB degree and the profession of a lawyer where one wears a black coat and goes to work in a court hold enormous dignity. It not only provides dignity but also societal status.
He also added that most of the learning for law students is not from the law school, but from observing how others argue, and even more important is how are they do not argue.
He stressed how it is the role of bar associations to bridge the gap of the existing digital divide in the country and he also urged them to come forward.
He also called the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) which are issued by the courts for regulating virtual hearings, an embarrassment and urged for concrete rules to be formed for governing the same.