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COVID-19 pandemic taught us to adapt, change, modernise ourselves: CJI

The CJI said he was brought up in an environment where there was a culture of looking up to the library and books in physical form for reference.

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CJI UU Lalit

COVID-19 pandemic has ”taught us to adapt, change and modernise ourselves”, Chief Justice of India U U Lalit said on Saturday while stressing on ”assimilating the advantages of technology in our lifestyle.” Speaking at the inauguration of paperless courts in 30 districts in Odisha, CJI Lalit said there are many advantages of technological advancement and now a common man sitting in the remotest part of the country can have access to justice.

The paperless courts were inaugurated in presence of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah and Orissa High Court Chief Justice S Muralidhar.

”COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to adapt, change and modernise ourselves. The advantages of technology are here for us not only to witness but assimilate into our lifestyle,” CJI Lalit said.

The CJI said he was brought up in an environment where there was a culture of looking up to the library and books in physical form for reference.

Lalit said he still considers himself to be in a nursery school with respect to technology.

Justice D Y Chandrachud, who was also present with Justice M R Shah on the occasion, said technology is not just for the elite; it is for all those for whom the delivery of justice is intended. ”Paperless courts will also save precious time for lawyers, who may soon find themselves burning less midnight oil stitching together paper-books and preparing volumes upon volumes of annexures,” he said adding that paperless courts are environmentally sustainable because they will (as their name suggests) reduce the consumption of paper.

Justice Chandrachud said that it is estimated that the Indian legal system is responsible for the use of millions, if not billions, of sheets of paper in any given year.

”The inauguration of paperless courts in Odisha will certainly go a long way in ensuring that this number is reduced. All the advantages that I have listed are doubly beneficial in the context of the District Courts because it is there that a lion’s share of the country’s litigation takes place.

”In a lighter vein, the only disadvantage of paperless courts is that young lawyers will be deprived of the daily workout or exercise that comes with carrying voluminous paper books. We may witness a rise in the number of gym subscriptions in Odisha after the inauguration of paperless courts!,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said it is imperative to recognize the existence of the digital divide and take steps to bridge this gap. ”We must and will ensure that the digitization of the court process does not disadvantage the common citizens in any way. E-Sewa Kendras are being set up in the High Courts and in one District Court in each state to assist lawyers and litigants with various e-processes and we intend to ensure that within a period of one year, every single court establishment will have an e-Sewa Kendra…

”It is true that many of us may be unfamiliar with the use of technology and therefore uncomfortable with using it in court proceedings. As a former member of that group, I am happy to report that familiarizing oneself with technology is not as difficult as it may initially seem,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said while courts across the nation quickly and efficiently adapted to what we have come to term as “the new normal”, it is important to remember that reactive policy-making rarely results in the development of sustainable and bankable solutions.

Therefore, courts at all levels must build digital capabilities that are scalable, stable and designed for use by lay persons and lawyers, he said.

”The digitization of courts will not only assist in crisis proofing our justice delivery system but will also ensure that it is one which is open, transparent, accessible, and cost-effective. Finally, I must note that year after year, the Orissa High Court has established itself as a pioneer in implementing the initiatives of the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India,” Justice Chandrachud said.

Justice Shah said paperless communication in terms of cost is matchless as it reduces the expenses and made an appeal to all the stakeholders to use technology in courts.

”We must rise to the occasion by adapting ourselves to the changing times. Everybody has to change with time and technology. Use of technology in courts will lead to transparency and work in furtherance of speedy administration of justice,” he said.


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