When Ravi Kishan of Patna got a job in an IT firm in Bangalore, his family members thought his life was settled. So, they soon got him married to one of their acquaintances from Mughal Sarai. However, things soon turned into a bitter legal battle as his wife took all his family members to court. With his DV date scheduled every 15 days, and local police called him from time to time in the name of investigation; life soon turned into a nightmare for his family members. His ailing parents were forced to travel between Patna to Mughal Sarai and he was forced to come from Bangalore. Soon his funds dried up. To make things worse, his company asked him to leave and sort out his ‘personal problems’ as his frequent absence from work impacted his productivity.
If you are an average Indian, who was unfortunate enough to get into such legal tangles, you might have experienced the same fate. Every year thousands of Indian families need to undergo such hassles for no fault of theirs. If you are one of those fed up by the Indian judicial system, here is some ray of hope for you. Here are 7-ideas that can ensure you get a much better experience in courts and justice is delivered. Additionally, once implemented, the new system can make getting justice much cheaper and hassle-free for you.
1. Empanelled Lawyers
How many times did you run from one person to the other in search of a good lawyer? How many times you as a litigant was cheated by a lawyer recommended by others? How many times did you feel that your lawyer is not performing as expected? Moreover, how many times in your cases you felt that your lawyer might not have a valid legal degree? If you have ever had these feelings, you are not alone. Many litigants have the same feelings, but they can’t do anything about it. Here is a ray of hope for them.
If all courts in India have only empanelled lawyers who are paid by the court and not by any litigant, then lawyers will be duty bound to perform in every case. Outside lawyers who are not empanelled in the court will not be permitted to practice there or will need proper documentation from the respective bar council to practice. This way the risk of getting a fake lawyer who may not have a proper law degree will be eliminated. According to a report by The New Indian Express, there are about 12 lakh fake lawyers in Indian courts. That is 60% of the lawyer population.
In this system, individual litigants like you will not have the pain of searching for a good and genuine lawyer. Today, we have empanelled lawyers only in the Supreme Court of India. Any case in the SC is filed through them. Now, this system has its own demerits. These lawyers charge you a bomb. The result is that many ordinary persons like me can’t even dream of going to the Supreme Court for justice. Even though we have a legal aid system, the benefits do not reach poor ordinary citizens. One frequent complaint against the legal-aid system is that those lawyers don’t perform, they don’t appear or argue for their clients. But when you are not supposed to pay the lawyer directly for appearing on your behalf, you do not have the risk of exorbitant charge. In this new system, the litigant will pay to the court directly and the lawyers will get a salary from the court.
If you think these empanelled lawyers may still not deliver right services, you need read on to understand how this can be curtailed.
2. Single-Window System
When Ravi started going to his court on case dates, he realized how painful was to get off-court work done. He was frequently asked to get different documents xeroxed, get demi-papers for filing a petition or for court fees. To his utter dismay, most of the times the xerox shops used to be full and he needed to wait in the queue. Shops selling demi-papers, envelops or stamp papers often charged him extra. The same harassment was repeated on every case date, and that is when everyone started telling him about out of court settlement by paying his wife Rs 50 lakh compensation, the amount that she has asked for and come out of the mess. That is how most divorce cases in India get settled.
Now imagine, what if we had a Single-Window system in our courts that served as an all-purpose system for the litigants? Litigants just went there for everything. From buying court papers to paying the court/litigation fees or to get lawyer appointments.
In this system, for example, for filing a case, you just need to walk-in to such a window, fill an online form with the help of the counter personnel and a case file is generated in your name. At the end of this process, you only get a number reference number and the process of creating your login ID and password in the court’s system starts. This is to access your case online. Also, this process will assign an empanelled lawyer for you and will generate an appointment with him. You meet him on the appointment date, discuss all details and then he drafts your petition online and submits the same to the court after your online approval.
Under the present-day process, you may have difficulty in getting your own lawyer’s time in-spite of paying them their fees. Because all these private practitioners only charge you and they have no consequences for their poor services. In the new single-window system, when lawyers are paid by the court for their services and work there as employees, they will be duty-bound to meet their client for the appointments and render correct services.
So, when your case remains online, your case papers are accessed online while hearing the same or while transferring the same to other courts. There will be no requirement of any paper document.
To understand how some of the pain points will be eliminated to give you a much better experience, and how the whole process will work, read on.
If you have ever fought any legal case, you would have realized that one major pain for you as a litigant is getting your documents photocopied. One of the requirements of every court cases is to give your documents to other parties. If the number of parties increases, then the related pain also increases. What if, all these are eliminated at the root and there is no paper document used in cases? Won’t that be a wonderful experience for you?
To achieve this, we just need to establish a process of e-documentation where every case document is filed online as online documents. For example, your petition may be filed to the court as a PDF document, a physical murder weapon may be kept in police-locker but photos attached to a case, etc. All these documents may be verified by a competent authority before attaching to the case files in e-formats. This way, all parties will get access to case files from anywhere, anytime and there will be no requirement of getting your documents photocopied.
If all our courts go paperless then it will not only be a huge environment-friendly initiative, but it will also eliminate unnecessary processes and delays associated with document handover etc. How many times you have faced that situation in a court? How many times was your case postponed because the documents were not delivered to the other party or the other party lawyer was absent in the court? All these pain points will be eliminated in one shot if all courts become paperless. There will only be the need for scanning documents which will be a one-time process. This service can be delivered through the single-window system.
Don’t you think that experience will be fantastic for you?
But to understand how the new processes will be designed, you need to read further.
4. Eliminate unnecessary processes
What if I told you that you don’t need to bribe the bench clerk to transfer your case to a higher court or there is no need to waste time on getting the true copy of your interim judgment to submit in other courts or entities? What if you can do all that in the click of a button, on your smartphone or maybe some of these processes are eliminated altogether.
Lean processes or lean methodology means eliminating unwanted processes and keeping only value-adding processes. Even though lean processes can be adopted anywhere, IT implementation can expedite lean process implementation in Judiciary.
As you understood from the discussion so far that e-documentation and online availability of case details will eliminate many such non-value-adding processes. You won’t need to get your documents xeroxed every time, you don’t need evidence of handover of the documents to the opposite parties, there will be no delays if the opposite party lawyer doesn’t come to court on specific dates. Also, when you want to appeal to a higher court, you just need to get your online case papers transferred to the other court. This transfer of cases can be handled through a single-window system described earlier.
Those of you who have experience of fighting court cases, you may know how much delay is caused by these bottlenecks in the legal process. You may also know how many different middlemen extort you because of these process inefficiencies. You might have experienced no hearing in your case because the bench clerk couldn’t find out your case papers on the date of hearing. All these will be directly eliminated if we use IT, establish lean processes and you can imagine how beautiful that experience will be for you.
For a visual representation of the new process, please click – here
5. AI-Powered Legal Aides
M A Suresh, a government clerk in the education department didn’t have enough knowledge of the law and he was not IT savvy to research on his cases. So, he didn’t understand that he was fooled by his lawyer who also didn’t have a proper idea about legal processes or other related judgments that could help him. He didn’t have enough money to hire a better lawyer and his lawyer was also not hard working. Many of us suffer in our cases like Suresh. Many lawyers who can’t work hard, fail to make a mark in their cases. If you have ever suffered from such problems, what if, we eliminated all these issues for you?
You might have heard of Artificial Intelligence or AI already. This is a technology that can self-learn and improve its outputs with every new transaction or experience.
This technology can be effectively used to create learning and helping aides for all legal professionals, judges and litigants. AI-based mobile apps can revolutionize this space and this will make study/research about any case or any type of case much easier. Imagine a situation where you are able to study thousands of judgments from your home through one such app and when you are able to get insight into similar cases from judgments of different courts. Imagine your mobile telling you which judgments can help you in your case. Won’t that be a mind-blowing experience for you?
AI can revolutionize the way judges deliver justice as well. Even judges can use these apps for delivering better judgments, lawyers can present better arguments and litigants can study the historical pattern of judges or lawyers. This will eliminate hours of hard labour required by the lawyers and judges today, besides empowering litigants and ordinary citizens.
6. 360-Degrees Feedback of Lawyers
How many times have you felt that you will give such strong feedback against your lawyer for failing you in your case that no one hired him? But currently, there is no central system where we can give lawyer feedback that will matter to future litigants. So, lawyer services often go unrated. What if you are given the power to give such feedback about your lawyer’s services, that mattered to everyone?
Since I have already mentioned about IT-driven processes, one need of the hour is to have a rating of lawyers or a 360-degrees feedback mechanism. Since the proposition is for empanelled lawyers who get a salary from the courts for their employment and are not paid directly by the litigants (litigants pay their fees to the court, not to the lawyers), it is also important to have a feedback/appraisal mechanism for them. An IT-driven method can easily help us achieve this.
If all lawyers are given a rating by the litigants with their comments (like we have for any online product) then lawyers will be duty bound to deliver the best value to every client. If a lawyer is evaluated on multiple parameters separately and rated on all those multiple parameters separately, then one can get a 360-degree view of the lawyer’s services. For example, today we have this evaluation system for online hotels. Hotels are rated on various parameters by the users and those rating ratings help the new users select the right hotel.
Don’t you think giving feedback about your lawyer’s services and prohibiting cheating lawyers from practising in our courts will deliver better justice to all?
7. IT-Driven Security
When Mallinath came to know about his cheating wife has given birth to a child from her lover, he was shattered. He knew proving adultery was impossible for him, but on advise of some of the MRAs he got a DNA paternity test done with a lot of difficulties. He had to submit his paternity test result in his court with a lot of difficulties. His cases were going on but after one year he found that paternity test results were no longer to be found in the records.
If you go to any court today, you will find heaped up paper documents. The storerooms of such files are also heaped with documents with hardly any tracking system or safety from rodents or fire. In this situation, it is highly probable that your case papers get lost frequently, gets destroyed by rats or fire and that may be very costly for you. Since we need to file many documents in original to these courts, if the original document is destroyed then the outcome of the case can significantly be impacted.
This situation not only creates huge delays in the justice delivery process but most often you as a litigant end up paying the price for a screwed-up system. Added to that, is the threat of your case papers getting leaked or random miscreants accessing your files. As you may understand that the present mechanism is very unsafe for every stakeholder.
IT-based document control and security system can eliminate all these problems for good. While no paper documents will be allowed in this new system, the pain of keeping such physical files for years will be gone. Every case file can be safely maintained using modern IT-driven systems and also the access to such confidential files can be maintained through strict access-control and monitoring system. Modern cloud-based infrastructure can easily store this data safe and secured. It is also possible to delete/destroy such files based on their age so that document management becomes easy.
Steps By Modi 2.0
It is important to note that Modi 2.0 government under the visionary leadership of PM Narendra Modi has already taken the first step towards achieving a completely transformed judicial system. Modiji has given both the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Ministry of Communication, Electronics and Information Technology to Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad. So, the possible bottlenecks that could arise due to internal conflicts of these two ministries are also eliminated at the root. This step of combining both these ministries and giving these to one person shows how committed the Modi 2.0 government is towards a digital revolution in law and justice.
In his last tenure, we have seen Modiji’s commitment towards a digital revolution and scrapping of unnecessary and ineffective laws like IPC 497 and IPC 377. Even though these steps instigated criticism, but this was towards eliminating unnecessary cases crippling the justice process. There was a time when the CJI had to cry for the appointment of new judges to dispose of pending cases.
In his last tenure PM Narendra Modi has also shown how the digital revolution can change India. In one way, he has Modified India. The commitment to use IT in governance and use IT-based processes to the advancement of government processes is profound and clearly visible in the actions taken so far. Even the law minister under Modi 2.0 himself expressed his commitment towards taking #DigitalIndia to a new level, immediately after taking up charges. All these clearly show that Modi 2.0 is committed to bringing the digital revolution in India and the next target will be the judicial processes. These are some of the initiatives for the government so that you can expect a much better justice delivery in the years to come.
What changes do you want in the legal process? Let us know and we shall let the ministry know.