This paper will be talking about the working of Virtual Courts in India along with the meaning and importance of Legal Design. The Paper will explore deeper into the concepts by relating them with each other at last and by explaining the consequences of COVID pandemic on legal design. The paper also describes how virtual platforms in the Legal system have taken over the concept of legal design. In the end, the role of legal design in the Indian legal system is also discussed.
VIRTUAL COURT ROOMS
Due to COVID-19, the Legal system has been forced to adopt Virtual Court Rooms to the widespread use of video hearings with the aim of providing justice in urgent and important matters which were on hold due to pandemic. However, technical, privacy and security concerns are also rising with time as virtual court rooms often lack these aforementioned factors.
According to Keith Kaplan ('Will Virtual Courts Create Courthouse Relics?' The Judges' Journal 2013 vol 52(2) 32) a virtual court is a conceptual idea of a judicial forum that has no physical presence but still provides the same justice services that are available in courtrooms. Access to virtual courts would, however, be limited to online access, videoconferencing and teleconferencing.
Also, these can be few types of virtual court rooms
There are technologies that legal representatives use to present evidence and arguments.
The existence of electronic documents has fundamentally changed the discovery process.
Attorneys can use new technology outside of the courtroom to start their cases, maintain their cases, and spread the word about their cases.
Electronic filing, social media, and legal research have transformed the traditional work of lawyers.
Virtual courts are cost savings and availability of service hours. Traditionally, the courts are open to the public only on business days. However, this is restrictive in the sense that many litigants who need access to court also work on business days. Virtual courts can remove this barrier by not only allowing 24/7 access to electronic filing and other online case processes, but litigants will also be able to participate in trials by video conference. Litigants will no longer be forced to leave work to attend court, as they will access proceedings from their home or office.
Therefore, virtual courts would save overhead and costs associated with running court facilities, thereby improving access to justice.
It is also noticeable that by using technology, courts have already reduced the need for people to physically access courts. As video technology improves, courts are beginning to use it for postponements in criminal matters to reduce the costs of transporting defendants from correctional facilities to courtrooms.
It is foreseeable that more courts will begin to use video technology to replace the need for court appearances. In the future, trials may take place via videoconference with all parties safely accessing the court from their chosen locations. Courts, as seen today, can go virtual and not require litigants or staff to physically attend court.
II. MALLEABILITY IN INDIA
As Virtual Courts have been taken into account for the urgent matters only, which reflects that no importance would be given to this type of Proceedings in future but the virtual platforms are treated as the solution of last resort in India.
Although, some members of the legal profession may view these modern communication devices as a threat;
While others may dismiss them as mere tools. Nevertheless, it should be seen as an opportunity for imaginative and constructive use in furthering our goal of the correct and expeditious administration of justice. Digitizing the legal world will not only improve access, but it will also change the way litigants practice law.
It should be noted that the legal representative and the courtroom will continue to play the leading roles because cases are simply too difficult for computers to handle on their own. The customer needs to understand, respond and advise that technology cannot provide.
It is clear that with these new tools, lawyers need to work harder than ever to keep pace with changes in law practice.
III. CHALLENGES IN INDIA
- Litigants cannot join the process: prisoners and litigants find it difficult to participate in judicial processes.
- Internet connectivity issues: Current bandwidth is proving inadequate to reach the electronic court. Attorneys and litigants generally do not have good connectivity and poor bandwidth, which affects the fluidity of video conferencing.
- Lack of knowledge / inadequate training: Lead attorneys and judges may not be well versed in technical advances and uses. Therefore, proper training is required at all levels.
- Lengthy procedure: The intricate physical and electronic filing procedure is another major shortcoming of the system.
- Notification of defects: In the electronic filing process, the procedure for notification of defects should be simplified. The registry should be well equipped with the technology for notifying defects in the attorney's file so that the attorney can correct the defects and resubmit it electronically.
Hagan's describes the legal design as “legal design is the application of human-centred design to the world of law, to make legal systems and services more human-centred, usable, and satisfying”. Simply stated, the legal design is a set of tools aimed to design better products and to better communicate legal information to users and stakeholders.
It can also be stated that Legal design = legal strategy × perception,
Although, Legal Designs aims to make Laws more user-friendly by adopting legal design practices professionals work toward a simplified language and lawyers start to adapt their documents to audiences with multiple needs. It focuses on bringing a culture of innovation in law by transforming legal language, traditional processes, and solving legal complexities. As many may misunderstand, adding design flavour does not mean making legal documents aesthetically pleasing or colourful. By utilizing the design approach and processes, legal outcomes can be improvised by putting users at the centre of each product or service.
Traditional legal practices are not sufficient to meet the needs of the current dynamic legal market. With the onset of heavy automation and rapid technological advances through artificial intelligence and blockchain, legal practitioners and law firms were forced to rethink their business models.
Other problems in our work are accessibility and inclusion. The use of terminology, legal frameworks, and the complexity of procedures have made the law inaccessible to ordinary people. This has divided the category of people most in need of justice because access to legal services is time-consuming, expensive, and unaffordable. Legal design can be used to make the law easier for ordinary people, and to improve the effectiveness of legal solutions by reducing the time required to complete legal proceedings.
The legal design caters to many stakeholders by understanding their needs and weaknesses. Helps to create user-friendly solutions including law firms, law firms, start-ups, independent legal practitioners, law students, jurists, law schools and professors, policymakers, policymakers, user experience designers, graphic designers, legal aid organizations, NGOs, and think tanks.
Legal Design aims to improve the legal process by creating solutions based on the needs of the people. It develops innovative approaches in the legal field by simplifying complex legal language for practical understanding and communication. It aims to achieve the benefits of access to justice.
Legal design can also help decision-makers rethink and redefine existing laws and policies. Depending on the policy-making mechanisms of each country, government bodies responsible for policy-making may benefit from the principles of legal planning.
Thanks to this vast catalogue of ideas, legal planning offers great opportunities to effectively serve the purposes of justice through innovative tools and methods.
II. ROLE OF LEGAL DESIGN IN INDIA
Especially, In the current crisis of COVID 19, the legal field is undergoing a rapid transition to technology-based legal action. One of the ways legal formulation can help in this transformation process is to create easy-to-use visual links and user experience. Although, Legal Design can change virtual court's condition in the following ways:
• The country's courts use a variety of software and applications to promote videoconferencing and digital listening. Each application and software work with different settings, making it even more difficult for lawyers/litigants to bring their emergency cases to court.
• E-court notification and videoconferencing in this way should be designed to take into account litigants/bars/benches as well as court staff responsible for administration and all relevant procedures.
• Each court must have an appropriate screen and speaker. District and taluka courts may consider having an e-court room in their room with a video conference room/e-courtroom where they will appear at the e-court hearing, which may use the technical infrastructure
• When reviewing glitches, the essential seems to be to limit the bandwidth of the court to operate at full capacity. If possible, it would help fix it so that the problem has a significant advantage.
The COVID-19 crisis has led us to rethink our ways and encouraged innovative minds to come up with solutions. Such is the case with MG Priyadarshini, the district judge (Adilabad, Telangana), who launched a virtual court to connect the mobile van.
This attempt to ensure seamless and efficient access to justice is today an example of legal planning and frugal legal innovation that catalyses inclusiveness and accessibility in the legal sector.
Observing ahead, it can be said that the successful implementation of virtual courts would require both social and technological innovation, and design thinking can surely bring many benefits.
By restructuring traditional systems in India and rethinking the provision of legal services, law firms can reap wide-ranging benefits by adopting legal planning. With end-users looking for a better user experience, law firms are recognizing the need to focus on creating customized, client-centric legal solutions, gaining deeper insight into their clients'needs. In practice, customer service remains one of the top priorities for law firms. Legal planning can be used as a tool to develop more innovative solutions in order to better understand what the client needs.
On the face of it, a 'design discerning' approach would essentially involve all stakeholders (technical skills of engineers and digital architects, justice professionals, including litigants, lawyers and judges, prisoners, police, and other experts) by interviewing them, observing their behaviours, recording their attitudes and working with them to swiftly prototype new concepts.
This would definitely give the Indian legal system a new way to continue their services by providing justice to people without their physical presence.
And, this approach could undeniably help the new embodiment of courts to be successful!