Online functioning of courts, necessitated due to the coronavirus pandemic, created an unintended inequality as some people did not have access to digital technology, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said on Saturday.
However, he was proud that courts in the country kept functioning amid the pandemic, he said.
The CJI was speaking after inaugurating the Nyay Kaushal e-Resource Centre and a virtual court for the Maharashtra transportat department at the Judicial Officers Training Institute in Nagpur.
The Nyay Kaushal Centre is the first e-resource centre in the country providing the facility of e-filing cases in any court in the country, officials said.
CJI Bobde said that while the courts continued to function after the outbreak of coronavirus, the access to justice became dependent on technology.
It created an obvious distinction between those who could afford the technology and those who could not and this created unintended inequality, he said.
“I am told by the chairman of Bar council of India and other members that some advocates suffered so much that they had to switch to selling vegetables and there were reports that some wanted to end their careers and some wanted to end life,” he said.
Therefore, it was important to make technology available everywhere, he said.
Some states have introduced mobile vans which provide Wi-Fi connectivity which litigants and lawyers can use, he noted.
“We must remove these inequalities and that I think is going to be our next emphasis. This E-Kendra, these two facilities we are inaugurating today, is a step in that direction,” the CJI said.
Many more centres will be opened and “this has to be done on war footing” to remove the inequality created by lack of access to technology, he said.
Pointing out another problem the online functioning has created, the CJI said that junior lawyers say that earlier they could get work when they attended the court and got noticed, which does not happen when courts function online.
“They are not being exposed to the litigation as only the senior lawyer can be seen on the screen and due to lack of exposure their professional chances are receding,” he said.
“There is a famous statement about access to justice– it should not be like Ritz hotel, it should be open to all,” he said.
The CJI also spoke about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would change litigation and judicial system.
The AI makes it possible to search for information in a vast database within seconds, he said.
He also expressed concerns about disposal of motor accident claims, saying about 30 percent of pending cases in all high courts are of motor accidents claims.
With Artificial Intelligence, these cases can be dealt with speedily, he said.
He also said that the police should devise new methods of serving summons in cases under the negotiatible instruments act, because delay in issuing summons is a major problem in these matters.