1.86 crore cases heard virtually by courts during pandemic

New Delhi: Courts across India heard about 1.86 crore cases via video conferencing during the pandemic, the Parliament was told on Friday.

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However, the decision of virtual mode of court hearing is a matter which is under the purview of the judiciary and the Central government has no role to play in this matter, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha.

“Since the Covid lockdown started, the district courts heard 1,23,19,917 cases while the High Courts heard 61,02,859 cases (totalling 1.84 crore) till February 28, 2022 using video conferencing (VC). The Supreme Court held 2,18,891 hearings till March 14, 2022, since the beginning of lockdown period making it the world leader in virtual hearings,” he said in his reply to a question.

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The Supreme Court on April 6, 2020 gave legal sanctity and validity to the court hearings done through VC. Further, VC rules were framed by a 5-judge committee which was circulated to all the High Courts for adoption after local contextualisation.

As many as 24 High Courts have implemented VC rules. One video conference equipment each has been provided to all court complexes including taluk level courts and additionally, funds have been sanctioned for additional VC equipment for 14,443 court rooms. Funds for setting up 2,506 VC cabins have been made available, and an additional 1500 VC licenses have been acquired, the Minister said.

He also said that VC facilities are already enabled between 3,240 court complexes and corresponding 1,272 jails, while a sum of Rs 7.60 crore has been released for procurement of 1,732 document visualisers.

Noting that lack of access to computers, laptops, and digital hardware amongst lawyers in rural areas and the resultant digital divide is a genuine problem, Rijiju said that to overcome this problem of digital divide, 493 eSewa Kendras have been set up in High Courts and district courts across the country which give lawyers easy access to e-Court facilities and internet facility.

To resolve technical glitches which arise during VC hearings, the NIC has been closely monitoring the complaints.

It has also developed a VC software which is under test, he added.

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