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CAN HEARINGS IN OPEN COURT BE REPLACED BY VIRTUAL COURTS?

Author: Deep Kathin, V Year of B.L.S.,LL.B(Hons.) From Rizvi Law College/ Mumbai University.


Introduction

The covid-19 virus, one of the deadly viruses, has not only wrecked havoc on people's lives around the globe, but it is also striving to have a meaningful impact and transform the system by which nations and communities will support their future lives and companies. Because the virus spreads more swiftly in large groups of people, social isolation has become essential to daily existence. No one can forecast when this pandemic will end because the vaccines have not yet been developed. The globe has adjusted to this new situation and the economic activities taking place in the corporate world, where people have begun working from home and holding conferences via Webinar and Zoom and holding meetings via Skype. Despite the courts' ban on advocates attending court proceedings, significant cases affecting the life and liberty of citizens are still being decided by judges via video conference from remote courtrooms.



The accessibility of virtual courts


E-Justice is seen as a component of e-government in India. The judiciary in India has 15000 courts. E-courts will make it possible to accomplish a number of goals, including helping the judicial system streamline cases, cutting down on case pending time and cost, providing databases, ensuring electronic filing, producing witnesses through video conferencing, and issuing court orders that have been digitally signed, among other things. Wider Internet accessibility is necessary to use the E-court facility. In order to deliver justice during the Covid-19 outbreak, courts around the globe have used video conferencing technology. The Indian Supreme Court likewise primarily depends on the same. The Supreme Court has submitted an application to translate decisions into nine other languages. . Technology has made it possible for the open courts in various nations to operate and serve as a safeguard to protect citizens' rights throughout the epidemic. The High Court of Delhi recently ordered the accused to video contact the investigating official while also granting bail. Another instance of this kind was the Kerala bar council's online lawyer enrolment scheme.


On the other hand, some people firmly believe that open court hearings cannot be replaced by video conferencing since the public's access to courts is a requirement for the administration of justice. According to Article 145(4) of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court may only pronounce judgement in open court. Furthermore, it states that only reports in compliance with opinions previously stated in open court may be made in accordance with Article 143. Therefore, preserving the public's faith in the administration of justice depends on the concept of open courts. Any court must provide the public access so that they can observe the administration of justice there and the judges' sincere efforts to uphold the law.


On the one hand, this attempt to computerize the courts benefited the general public and those who work in the legal field by improving efficiency and availability, reducing wait times, and streamlining the procedure. On the other hand, its implementation exposed a number of flaws, some technological and others intrinsic, which may advise the English online court concept of some of the challenges it may encounter.


False witness testimony

Audio-video testimony and in-person testimony differ significantly in that the latter gives the court a better opportunity to assess the witness through his testimony. Evidence obtained by video conferencing may be distorted if non-verbal indications like gestures, postures, and facial expressions are captured. The fact that the witness testifies from their home or place of business raises another problem when testimony is recorded and evidence is presented via video conferencing. Such situations lack the required intensity that comes with court appearances and ceremonies like taking the oath in front of a judge in person. In such situations, there is always a danger that the persons testifying will feel excessively free to give false testimony.


Identity theft by either side, or even by a third party, is a threat.


It is challenging to assume another person's identity in open courts because hearings take place in front of the judge. When the activity is carried out online, this worry grows. Globally, the number of identity theft cases has been rapidly increasing. A case's documents and material are highly significant and kept secret from the general public. This information may potentially be compromised by a third party during online court proceedings, and it may also be utilized inappropriately. The justice administration system of open court hearings cannot be replaced by the use of virtual courtrooms. The implementation of technological innovations in the justice system administration must be gradual and methodical, with security measures to ensure that the principle of open court hearings is obtained holistically and that it does not compromise the administration of justice, the dignity and majesty of open court hearings, or the rights of the parties or witnesses.




Benefits of Virtual Courts


This decreases the required labour while also lowering other open court expenses like energy, maintenance, facilities, personnel, security, etc. It also reduces the significant travel expenses incurred by the parties as a result of the frequent case hearings. The ability for participants to participate in court proceedings from their homes is the second benefit of these virtual courts. As a result, a wide range of geographic locations are covered. Although there may be a few minor setbacks at first, the system of virtual court hearings will eventually lead to the digitization of court proceedings, and court management will become more effective as a result of the reduction in paperwork or physical labour. The workflow will therefore proceed at a good clip. The e-courts' video conferencing approach can be used by key eyewitnesses who should be given protection so they can attend and submit evidence and statements. There's no need for them to worry about the repercussions. A full-fledged and successful deployment of e-courts will aid in eliminating the accumulating cases, which will reduce courtroom traffic and eventually lead to a decrease in the number of cases. Additionally, e-courts will reduce the spread of corona virus.




Conclusion


Some people believe that these contemporary technologies pose a threat to the way justice is delivered, while others think of them as ordinary devices. However, technology should be applied in a way that enhances and increases the transparency of the judicial system. The advantages of modern technology, when properly applied, will help us achieve the aim of a fully integrated judicial system. This is how the nation will operate in the future, with a fundamentally altered legal system and system of justice. It is only a matter of time before we begin to recognize our technology limitations and work to overcome them, ultimately inventing the judicial system for the benefit of all. A solid system of e-courts may be a long shot, and there are certainly many obstacles to overcome, but only by overcoming them can we ensure a brighter future. And by addressing these problems and putting the law into practise effectively, without any gaps, a transparent, effective, and time-bound judicial system will be established.


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