Monday, February 28, 2011

E-Courts Infrastructure Of India Needs Rejuvenation

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented the Union Budget for the Financial Year 2011-12 in Parliament on Monday. He also sanctioned around Rs 1000 Crore to judiciary for establishment of e-courts.

This is welcome step as Indian judiciary, especially subordinate judiciary, is suffering severely from lack of physical infrastructure in general and e-courts infrastructure in particular. The judicial e-infrastructure of India needs urgent reforms and overhaul.

Establishment of e-courts in India was originally conceived in 2003. However, we do not have a single e-court in India till the month of February 2011. Of course, some productive and effective computerisation initiatives have been undertaken by Indian judiciary. However, these initiatives are far from satisfactory and definitely not enough for the successful establishment of e-courts all over India.

Now the judiciary has enough financial resources, so there would be no money crunch as well. But would India get its first e-court in the year 2011? This is a big question that cannot be answered easily.

If we keep in mind the past performance and the year 2003 as the beginning, this seems to be a too ambitious claim. This is so for at least two reasons.

Firstly, we do have a legal enablement of ICT systems in India. Till a legal framework conducive for techno legal development of Indian judiciary is not established, legal and judicial systems of India have little incentives to adopt technology.

Secondly, the techno legal expertise needed for the sufficient completion of e-courts project of India is missing. India has a single techno legal e-courts research, training and consultancy centre that is managed by Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB).

India needs more such techno legal e-courts centers so that e-court project of India may be successful. Till now the e-court centre of PTLB is not extending its expertise to the e-courts project of India. This may be one of the reasons why establishment of e-courts in India failed to materialise.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily must urgently take some effective steps so that there is a good team of techno legal experts who can successfully implement the e-court project. The present institutional framework adopted by the Supreme Court of India lacks this expertise and the e-courts committee must actively seek services of techno legal experts in general and institutions like PTLB in particular.