Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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The e-Courts concept was conceived by the Supreme Court of India, as a pan India project monitored and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. Its vision is to transform the judicial system of the country by the enablement of courts deploying Information & Communication Technology (ICT). It has laid down the following agenda:

  • To provide efficient and time-bound citizen-centric services by the e-Courts Project Litigant’s Charter.
  • To develop, install, and implement efficient justice delivery systems in courts.
  • To automate processes easing accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
  • To enhance judicial productivity, both qualitatively & quantitatively, making the justice delivery system accessible, cost-effective, reliable, and transparent.

The e-Committee is the governing body entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the e-Courts Project conceptualized under the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary-2005”. During Phase I of the eCourts Project, in a very large number of Court Complexes, Computer Server Rooms and Judicial Service Centres was developed wherein the District and Taluka Courts as covered in Phase I of these Court Complexes have already been computerized, with the installation of hardware, LAN, etc. and Case Information Software (CIS). Hence the eCourts Project has been focussed on being citizen-centric, keeping only the litigant in mind leaving all other facets of Court administration.

The Second Phase of the e-Court project was approved during January 2014 wherein detailed guidelines envisaging policy and action plan were formulated for the execution of  Implementation Model, Institutional Structure, Infrastructure Model, System and Application Software for Judicial Processes, Scanning, Digitization and Digital Preservation of Case Records,  Video-Conferencing for Courts and Jails, Capacity Building Measures, Judicial Process Re-engineering, Workflow, and Process Automation Tools and Measures, Judicial Knowledge Management System, Human Resources, Services Delivery, and  Cost Estimation.

INNOVATIONS UNDER COURTS PROJECT

  • Use of Open Source Technology in eCourts Project
  • National Judicial Data Grid (District Courts)
  • National Judicial Data Grid (High Courts)
  • Case Information System (District Courts)
  • Case Information System (High Court)
  • eFiling  enabled through https://efiling.ecourts.gov.in/
  • National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP)
  • ePayment of Court fees enabled through https://pay.ecourts.gov.in
  • Virtual Courts
  • eCourts Services’ Mobile application
  • JustIS – A Mobile app exclusively made for Judicial Officers:
  • Migration to Cloud
  • eCourts National Portal
  • Automated emails
  • Push and Pull SMS:
  • Integration with external agencies/departments
  • Capacity building and self-reliance – Roles of District System Administrators (DSAs)

CHALLENGES BEFORE COURT CONCEPT

The challenges mainly evolved under National Codification, establishing Uniformity of Case Types and technically coding the Purpose, Disposal, and Adjournment. The reasons were mainly attributed to:

  • Non-availability of Case Type Uniformity.
  • Non-availability of Stage wise pendency or Disposal nature is concerned.
  • States where two Districts of the same State were not having common case types.
  • Suits having at least 15-16 different nomenclatures used in different States in our country.
  • Legal constraints for High Courts in changing the certain case types which they were using for more than 6-7 decades

E-Court data states that there are 4.74 Million cases pending before 39 High Courts, and 35.67 Million cases pending before 3295 District and Taluk Court Complexes. While perusing the reasons for pendency in District and Taluk Courts in our country, the National Judicial Data Grid from its real-time extract as of date suggests that there are 4349292 cases pending before the lower courts of which 1217076 are civil cases and 3132216 cases pertain to Criminal cases.

The following reasons are published that are attributed to the reasons for the delay before these courts:

  • Awaiting for documents
  • Difficulty in securing the presence of an important witness
  • The frequent challenge to interim/interlocutory orders
  • Legal Representatives or new parties could not be brought on record.
  • Miscellaneous application delaying the process of the main case
  • Nonavailability of Counsel
  • The number of witnesses is more than 20
  • Obstructions in service of process in the execution of the decree
  • One or more accused absconding/not appearing
  • Parties not interested - Infructuous litigation
  • Record not available for the reason
  • Stayed by the High Court and Supreme Court or District Court/Other Courts.
  • Stayed for other reasons.

It is pertinent to mention that “Difficulty in securing the presence of important witness” accounts for more than 10.66 lakhs pending civil and criminal cases and 9.59 criminal cases account for a reason “One or more accused absconding/not appearing”.  The reason for the delay is also attributed to “Non-availability of Counsel/Advocate wherein 9.82 criminal and civil cases are accounted under this category. The data also accounts for 1.69 lakh cases where “Parties are not interested - Infructuous litigation” under both Civil and Criminal category. All these petty reasons could be either addressed through Legislation or deploying a robust technology framework.

EVALUATION OF DELAY ON ACCOUNT OF FREQUENT ADJOURNMENTS

The following reasons were attributed to adjournment of cases before various courts and solutions are proposed therein:

S.No

Reasons for Adjournment

Action Suggested

1.

Adjournment request by Plaintiff/Appellant/ Advocate

Any such request should be priced for a suitable cost by the Judiciary payable by the parties to the case.

2.

Plaintiff absent

Cause list should be advised in advance using SMS and Mails. If the plaintiff fails to make his presence on the date of hearing the case should be listed next only after paying penalty to the court as prescribed.

3.

Plaintiff Advocate absent

Cause list should be advised in advance using SMS and Mails. If the plaintiff advocate fails to appear on the date of hearing the case should be listed next only after paying penalty as prescribed by the court by the advocate as prescribed. The same should be advised through SMS and email immediately.

4.

Pleadings of Plaintiff side not complete

Defects in the Pleadings of the plaintiff side should be evaluated at the scrutiny stage itself by a competent judicial officer before it is numbered and put up for admission.

5.

Plaintiff's Advocate not prepared

Courts should impose Cash Penalty on the advocate besides reporting the same to the State Bar Council.

6.

Filing Documents by Plaintiff Side

The filing of relevant documents should be decided at the admission stage itself. Any further documents required during the course of the hearing should be listed and published in the Case Status for information to all besides mailing the same to the Plaintiff/Advocate by Court.

7.

Steps not taken by Plaintiff side or reply not filed

A strict cash penalty should be imposed for not filing a reply. Courts should institute a Para Legal Service Authority to take up Steps

8.

Plaintiff's witness not ready

Plaintiff’s witness needs to be properly identified verifying the identity and address credentials before they are summoned.

9.

Compliance not made by Plaintiff side

Non-compliance by the Plaintiff's side should become a ground for dismissal of the case after giving a reasonable time.

10.

Non-Appearance of Defendant

Before admission, the identity and address credentials of the defendant should be validated by an independent agency under Para Legal Services Authority. Failure of appearance after issuance of Summons/ Notices from Court for three successive hearings should result in the passing of Ex-Partitite Orders/Decrees.

11.

Adjournment request by Defendant/Respondent/Advocate

Any such request should carry a huge cost and should be granted only on defined exigencies as prescribed by Court.

12.

Defendant absent

Cause list should be advised in advance using SMS and Mails. If the defendant or his advocate fails to appear on the date of hearing the case should be listed next only after paying penalty to the court by the defendant as prescribed by the Court. The same should be advised through SMS and email immediately.

13.

Defense Advocate absent

Cause list should be advised in advance using SMS and Mails. If the defendant’s advocate fails to appear on the date of hearing the case should be listed next only after paying penalty as prescribed by the court by the advocate as prescribed. The same should be advised through SMS and email immediately.

14.

Pleadings of defendant side not complete

Defects and omissions in the Pleadings of the defendant side should be evaluated at the scrutiny stage itself by a competent judicial officer before it is numbered and put up for admission.

15.

Defendant's Advocate not prepared

Courts should impose Cash Penalty on the advocate besides reporting the same to the State Bar Council.

16.

Filing Documents by Defendant Side

Specific list to be advised to the defendant and the timeline to be strictly prescribed.

17.

Steps not taken by Defense/reply not filed

A strict cash penalty should be imposed for not filing a reply. Courts should institute a Para Legal Service Authority to take up for Steps.

18.

Defense witness not ready

Defense witness needs to be properly identified verifying the identity and address credentials before they are summoned.

19.

Compliance not made by Defendant side

Non-compliance by the Defendant's side should be treated as a ground for closure and adjudication of the matter after giving a reasonable time.

20.

Condolence meeting

Such Meetings should be held before the commencement of Court work early in the morning without encroaching the Court Hours.

21.

Bar abstaining from work

The court must engage such a period for evaluation of the reasons for pendency of cases and take up completion of all case management.

22.

Adjournment by consent

Parties need to inform the court in advance so that the case is not listed for hearing by paying a nominal fee and the case

23.

Both parties Absent

The case should be disposed of if it occurs three times.

24.

Advocate absent/not prepared/Busy

The court should not entertain such practice and must use all its resources to fix a prescribed timeframe for disposal

25.

Public Prosecutor/ complainant absent

Court to make alternative arrangements or else it should not be listed. Case to be returned if the complainant who remains absent for more than three hearing under a specific law.

26.

Stay u/s 10 CPC

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

27.

Compliance not made

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

28.

Stay by District Court

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

29.

Stayed

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

30.

Case not committed

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

31.

Adjourned Sine Die

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

32.

Compliance not made by defense

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

33.

Compliance not made by Prosecution

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

34.

Presiding Officer not available

The case can be  included under the Cause list of the adjoining Court

35.

Court vacant

Case to be transferred to another bench

36.

Stay by the High Court/ Supreme Court

A specific timeframe under the law to be fixed for disposal

37.

Third-party absent

The court must pass orders ex-partite if absenteeism persists

38.

Courts closed due to natural calamity

Unavoidable

39.

Courts closed due to bandhs/ strikes

Unavoidable – But the closure should be compensated by working on a Holiday.

40.

Holiday Declared

Unavoidable

APPOINTMENT OF COURT CO-ORDINATORS - PARA LEGAL SERVICES CONCEPT

Every year thousands of youngsters become law graduates from different Law Schools, Colleges, and Universities in the country. After enrolment into State Bar Council as Advocates, they get attached to various Law Firms and practicing advocates and work as Junior Advocates and get trained to learn the nuances of the profession before they take up an independent practice. Normally it takes a minimum of ten to fifteen years to establish themselves in the profession due to inherent and external constraints on account of unemployment. Many are brilliant and tech-savvy on their own and only a few escalate into the next layer of success in the profession. The majority of them neither gain any professional expertise nor are assured with a regular income for livelihood. Hence Government needs to introduce an All India Competitive Exam exclusively for young lawyers to work in courts under Para Legal Services for a fixed pay basis for a period of a maximum of five years so that their services could be engaged in Courts to work in various departments and gain experience and expertise before they take up an independent practice. Apart from routine work allocation their primary job responsibilities include avoidance of Adjournments and facilitate disposal of all pending cases through effective co-ordination between the Court Administration, Law Enforcement Agencies like Police, NIA, CBI, ED, Jail Authorities, etc and the Bar. The following reasons that are attributed towards Adjournments and related pendency accrual could be entrusted besides establishing co-ordination related to the above-mentioned reasons:

  • Adjournment request by Prosecutor/ Complainant Advocate.
  • The sanction for the prosecution not filed
  • Witness not produced by Prosecution / Complainant
  • Additional / Supplementary charge-sheet not filed
  • Warrant / Process not executed
  • Accused not present
  • Adjournment request by accused/ advocate
  • Defense evidence/witness not produced
  • Case property in the charge sheet not produced
  • Steps not taken by defense OR Reply not filed
  • A statement under Section 313 CrPC not prepared
  • Charge not framed
  • Copies / Summons not Prepared / dispatched
  • Awaiting Reports / Records
  • File in ADR System
  • Warrants not prepared/dispatched
  • Awaiting Reference
  • Accused not produced by Jail Authority
  • Report of service not received (Except Warrant)
  • Incomplete process/ service
  • Report of service of Warrant not received
  • Witness not present / Not ready
  • Steps not taken
  • Order/ Judgment not ready
  • Guardian at Litem not appointed
  • Issues not framed.

OPTIMISATION OF TECHNOLOGY IN JUDICIARY

Though more than 15 years have passed since conceiving the idea under the eCourt concept the results are struggling to address the increase in the pendency of cases in our Judiciary burdened with the addition of new cases into the system. Delay in the administration of Justice under the due process of law has often been attributed in terms of infrastructure parameters without measure the quantum of technology optimization with the desired match of legal specifications with that of the technology. In other words, the process of technology optimization in the judiciary under the eCourt concept can be related to trimming our foot to the size of the readymade footwear as both stays non customizable to each other.  

In the past, pendency in Judiciary was mainly attributed to Low Bench strength and appointment, cumbersome process of Law, Absenteeism at the Bench and the Bar, Burden on the Appellate Jurisdiction, Lack of infrastructure. Misuse of the process of law by the litigants, Poor standards of Legal Education System, lack of fair competition due to various inefficiency parameters, False complaints against Judges, Abuse of Public Interest Litigation, High rate of filing of cases and low rate of disposal of cases, Ineffective training seminars/ workshops for advocates and judges, Lack of updates on law matters, Frequent Strikes of lawyers, Less use and awareness of Alternative Dispute resolution, Fast track courts, Lok Adalat’s, The Gram Nyayalayas Act 2008, plea bargaining, etc.  But all these reasons can be amply addressed through optimization of technology under the eCourt concept and make ONE INDIA ONE JUSTICE SYSTEM. This could be envisaged if the following methods could be evaluated in terms of economic viability and technical feasibility divided into two segments viz Administration and Technology Management in Courts as under:

Court Administration Aspects

  • Frame Uniform Code for High Court Rules & Practice prescribing specific standardized formats for Plaints and related Affidavits.
  • Revisit and redraft the age-old enactments under civil and criminal procedure code by incorporating all the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court and high courts.
  • Introduction of Para Legal Services engaging the services of the young lawyers through All India competitive exam framework.
  • Framing of Specific Rules and Guidelines related to Interim and Interlocutory Applications (IA) filed during the process of Original Suit.
  • Institution of Supreme Court Benches in every State Capitals in the Country and  High Court Benches for every 5 Million population.
  • Scientifically evaluate the Number of Courts per 200 Sq. Km and Per One Lakh population.
  • Uniform Procedure Code for Special Courts/Tribunals like Debt Recovery Tribunals, Code for Air and Water Pollution Special Court, Bank Cases, Cyber Crimes, CBI Court, City Civil Court, Cooperative Appellate Court/Tribunal, Cooperative Court/Tribunal, Corporation Court / Municipal Magistrate, Court of Small Causes, EC Act Court, Economic Offences Special Court, Electricity Act Special Court, Fast Track Courts, Forest Magistrate Special Court, Gram Nyayalayas, Juvenile Justice Board, Land Acquisition Special Court/LRO JD/LRO SD, MAC Tribunal,  Mahila Court /Mahila FT/Women and Children Special Court, Consumer Redressal Fora, Matrimonial Cases Special Courts, Wakf Tribunals, etc.

Technology Management Process:

  • Develop a robust integrated technology infrastructure separately for High Courts, District and Taluka Courts, and Tribunals.
  • Law Commission to be constituted to study and standardize Uniform Case Types individually and propose Uniformity of nomenclatures and Codification of Case Types was a necessary step for High Courts and all subordinate courts/tribunals in the country.
  • Evaluate the common reasons for pendency for all Civil and Criminal cases including Warrant/Summons cases that are more than five years old and attach priority for its speedy disposal.
  • Deploy Business Intelligence tools and develop Business Analytics to evaluate the performance and trend patterns of functioning of all High Courts and subordinate courts to fix the reasons for pendency in the Judiciary under a single technology platform.
  • Create an integrated system just like Core Banking Solutions (CBS) in the banking industry for day-to-day court functioning and data dissemination of Court activities;
  • Conducting regular data quality reviews for existing and newly generated data and create  process manuals for data-entry and validation;
  • Assigning specific roles and responsibilities to technology professionals to manage the data-entry and data-validation process independently without the intervention of Courts.

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