In view of the challenges posed by deadly Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the necessity of transition to virtual hearings for checking piling up of cases during any odd situation like the prevailing one, 132 more court rooms in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh will be provided video-conferencing infrastructure shortly.
Reliable sources told EXCELSIOR that since prevailing situation and subsequent restrictions aimed at checking spread of COVID-19 have created roadblock in the physical hearing of cases and clearance of backlog at the required pace, e-Committee of the Supreme Court has felt the necessity of utilizing video-conferencing facility at the large scale by providing necessary assistance to the High Courts of the States and Union Territories under e-Courts Mission Mode Project.
The e-Courts Mission Mode Project is already under implementation for Information and Communication Technology enablement of District and Subordinate Courts and new and user-friendly version of Case Information Software has been developed and deployed at all the computerized District and Subordinate Courts.
As far as Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are concerned, against 218 functional court rooms, only 86 have the video-conferencing equipment at present as a result of which there is only partial transition to the virtual court hearings, sources further said.
To further augment video-conferencing infrastructure in the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, e-Committee of the Supreme Court has accorded sanction to the proposal regarding installation of video-conferencing equipment in more court rooms, sources said while disclosing that this facility will be provided in 132 more court rooms in both the UTs in the shortest possible time-frame.
“The video-conferencing facility in 132 more court rooms will help in handling the COVID-19 challenges in much better way and to make transition to virtual court hearing smoother”, sources further said, adding each such court room will be equipped with minimum 50 inches LED display unit to connect laptop output, USB PTZ camera and other required equipments.
“Since various courts across the country including in J&K are using a variety of platforms to conduct hearings through video-conferencing, a centralized and upgraded Cloud based video-conferencing infrastructure with latest features including robust data security and facility to support a larger number of concurrent users has been approved by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court, which can be usable for District and Subordinate Courts also”, they added.
According to the sources, 218 District and Subordinate Courts in J&K and Ladakh Union Territories have already been computerized by spending an amount of Rs 16.25 crore as against release of Rs 18.33 crore under e-Courts Mission Mode Project.
“The video-conferencing facility in 132 more court rooms will go a long way in ensuring smooth conduct of virtual court hearings and subsequent reduction in the pendency of cases during the prevailing situation”, they said.
As per the official figures , a total of 1,96,393 cases are presently pending in District and Subordinate Courts of both the Union Territories. Of these, 78,436 are civil and 1,17,957 are criminal cases. Similarly, a total of 67,456 cases are pending in both the wings of the High Court. Of these, 59,510 are civil and 7946 are criminal cases.
Even after improvement in COVID-19 situation and subsequent lifting of restrictions this mode will not lose its utility especially in the light of the fact that J&K High Court has already made all the arrangements for start of camp courts in rural parts of both the Union Territories to ensure delivery of justice at the door-steps of the people, sources said.
Though it is the primary responsibility of the State and UT Governments to provide judicial infrastructure/court rooms for High Courts and District/Subordinate Courts, the Union Government is leaving no stone unturned for development of infrastructure facilities for judiciary and e-Courts Mission Mode Project is one such step in that direction.