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Are virtual courts advancing the rule of law?

Unlike physical courts, virtual courts neither require the presence of the judge nor the lawyer. They are highly dependent on AI and aim to eliminate the presence of litigants and lawyers in court.

Published: 03rd March 2021 10:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd March 2021 10:27 AM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic brought workflows across the country to a standstill. It not only created havoc in the functioning of business sectors but also in the justice delivery system. 

The rise of virtual courts

The Indian Judiciary has always been perceived for a high number of backlogs, and delays for the disposal of cases. The rapid adoption of new-age technologies has resulted in the emergence of virtual courts. Unlike the physical courts, virtual courts neither require the presence of the judge nor the lawyer. They are highly dependent on Artificial Intelligence and aim to eliminate the presence of litigants and lawyers in the court. This has resulted in accelerating the adjudication of cases online. 

Video conferencing

The court hearings have shifted to video conferencing mode leading to several benefits for lawyers, litigants, and witnesses. Video conference technology allows witnesses to testify at trial without being physically present in the courtroom.

In contrast to a traditional, in-person witness, the video conference witness is not physically present in the courtroom, but ‘virtually present’ on the screen. Additionally, it benefits expert testimony in many cases where it is necessary to have testimony from fingerprints or chemistry experts present in different geographies. They are often requested to testify on the same day which results in delayed proceedings. However, the testimony experts can be present virtually in two locations on the same day. 

Online dispute resolution

The resolution of disputes is entirely done on the internet these days. Through emails, chat, or video conferencing, dispute resolution has become extremely convenient for lawyers and their clients without having any of them leave their office or home. 

Accessibility 

The matter of physical court hearings is superfluous. However, the setup of virtual courts results in extensive cost-effectiveness and results in the acceleration of disposal of cases. The time to visit the court and long waiting hours will significantly be reduced resulting in the increase of lawyers’ productivity. Furthermore, virtual courts also cut the exhaustive paperwork and cost of manpower as they are replaced with electronic records and automated workflows. 

Major shortcomings

Despite certain benefits, virtual courts still face structural challenges that are essential to address. Major challenges related to accessibility to justice are one of the biggest hurdles in the successful implementation of the virtual courts model. Since India is a highly populous country scattered into the urban and rural population, internet accessibility and connectivity play a crucial role in the adoption of virtual proceedings. Furthermore, the demeanor of witnesses and false evidence, and adversity in the recording of witnesses are also two of the major challenges that need to be addressed before the Indian judiciary completely moves to a digitised setup. 

—Himanshu Gupta, founder and CEO, Lawyered



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