New Delhi: Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde Friday said that the Ayodhya matter could’ve been heard much faster if they had the requisite technology back then.
The CJI was addressing an online seminar organised to unveil the e-filing module that has been developed by the apex court’s e-committee to facilitate online filing of cases on a 24×7 basis. The module envisages online time-slotted communication of defects and scrutiny of filed matters and also provides for e-payment of court fees and digital signatures.
Talking at the first ever online seminar organised under the aegis of the Supreme Court, Justice Bobde said, “E-filing is undoubtedly very significant, since it is the basis of a system of artificial intelligence… You will see in the time to come that artificial intelligence can play a great role in organisation of courts, categorisation of matters and process automation… It can also enable one to extract information at an incredible speed of 1 million words per minute.”
He then added, “This can be used for the purposes of deciding a case to extract information. In fact, if we had this system when the Ayodhya matter was being heard, I don’t know how fast we could’ve dealt with it.”
The Ayodhya title dispute was one of the longest running battles in India’s legal history.The first case in the dispute was filed over 130 years ago, and since then, it wound its way up through the legal hierarchy, starting from Faizabad Civil Court to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court finally delivered its judgment in the case on 9 November last year, ruling that a trust should be set up by the central government to help build the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The Muslims, the court ordered, should be given 5 acres of land elsewhere in Ayodhya to construct a mosque.
‘What we do today will define the future’
During the seminar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who heads the e-committee of the Supreme Court, lauded the efforts taken by over 17,000 courts in the country to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19.
“In significant ways what we do today will define the future. Our responses must deal with the present but the footprints of the pandemic will redefine how we function tomorrow in ways which may not readily be apparent today,” he said.
Justice Chandrachud also assured that the e-committee recognises the fact that not all lawyers have access to technology and so, the solutions proposed must factor in their concerns as well.
The Supreme Court has been hearing cases through video conferencing since 27 March, with lawyers and judges connecting on the Vidyo app. However, this process has not been one without glitches.
In fact, on 3 April, the proceedings even took place through WhatsApp video call, after technical issues delayed the hearings by at least 30 minutes. In a few other cases, technical challenges hindered lawyers from completing their arguments.
For instance, during the hearing in the case challenging Gujarat high court order on BJP Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama’s election, Senior Advocate Harish Salve’s connection link snapped. So after that it was Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul who made the submissions on behalf of Chudasama instead.
However, during the seminar Friday, CJI Bobde assured that e-filing is the first step in moving towards the e-Courts system, and that through the e-filing module, the Registry will be brought into the chambers of the Advocates.
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