Monday 14 February 2011

India Needs Legal Enablement Of ICT Systems

Information and communication technology (ICT) has become pervasive in today’s world. There is no area that has not been touched by ICT and legal field is no exception to this. However, the difficulty with legal system of India is that it has failed to ensure legal enablement of ICT systems.

Some of the possible uses of ICT for legal and judicial systems of India include e-courts, online dispute resolution (ODR), web based legal and judicial services, etc. Recently, a division bench of Delhi High Court directed all Delhi courts as well as its own officials to e-mail a copy of bail orders to Tihar jail authorities within 24 hours of being pronounced. Earlier, the Supreme Court of India asked its registry to send legal notices through e-mail. These are good examples of web based judicial services in India.

However, on the front of legal enablement of ICT systems in India there is a complete failure. Till the month of February 2011 India has not even a single e-court, no use of ODR and very selective web based legal and judicial functioning. What India is doing on these fronts is mere computerisation of traditional functions.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily launched the national litigation policy of India (NLPI). However, NLPI is deficient as far as e-courts and ODR is concerned. The Supreme Court of India has recently reconstituted the E-Court Committee and it may consider these aspects.

However, if the Committee keeps on working like in the past, not much can be expected from it. The Committee must urgently utilise the techno legal expertise of specialists in these field and if the Committee remains an internal body of its own officers, this objective may not be achieved.

There is an urgent need of good coordination between Supreme Court and Law Ministry in this regard. Till now none of them have taken pro active steps to ensure legal enablement of ICT systems in India.