With around 23 million cases pending from trial courts to the Supreme Court, judicial process in India being a multi-step process is eminently slow. Litigation process involves filing the relevant documents, examining the witnesses, cross-examinations, etc. which is a prolonged procedure in obtaining a decision from the court.
Recording statements of witnesses are one of the most tedious tasks in a court proceeding. It can be strenuous to get a witness to the court who lives in another city and sometimes in criminal cases, a witness is reluctant to come down to the court due to safety issues. As a solution to this, the Indian courts have started to incorporate the aid of technology, video conferencing being one of the technological advancements.
Video conferencing is one of the most advantageous products of this technological age that has enabled audio and visual communication between two or more persons at different locations. The use of video conferencing in Indian Courts has the ability to reduce the workload of investigators and judges and also act as a cost-effective solution for the witnesses who are required to travel down from another city to attend court proceedings. Evidence can be presented before the courts by the way of video conference or other electronic means. The key benefits of video conferencing are as follows:
- Empower witnesses to testify from their location: A very helpful and unassailable solution which gives the witness an option to make a legal deposition without worrying about self-security, privacy exposure, geographical impediments etc.
- Remote Arraignment and Safety & Security: Reduces the workload of the police officers and the risks as well of bringing prisoners from the prison to the courtroom. In Maharashtra, around 40 district courts have already installed video conferencing facilities in prisons and in courts to deliver the justice promptly.
- Conduct remote court trials: It also increases accessibility of legal services to disadvantaged people who are unable to bear the cost of travelling.
Use of technology in the litigation system is enhancing rapidly, with the following forms of technology used in video conferencing:
- Data sharing video conferencing technology: This type is ideal when there is a need to upload evidence, videos for quick sharing, sharing of documents, video clips, etc.
- Room-based technology: In case there are multiple people who want to communicate through video conferencing, then room base technology would help them to consider the number of locations that would initiate a call, number of displays that will be used enabling parties and the court to host high-quality calls without any interruption.
- Video conferencing can be used in almost any kind of legal matter including bail application, remand hearing, civil matters like matrimonial disputes, criminal proceedings, etc. the requirement of the act is that the court just requires the oral evidence to be made before it. Hence, the evidence can be presented before the courts by the way of video conference or other electronic means as well.
- In past, there have been cases where courts have permitted the use of video conferencing to record witness testimonies. In a case, the court permitted to record the testimony and cross-examination of the witness who was 54 years old and residing in the United States. Recently the Supreme Court allowed video conferencing in matrimonial cases. In this case, Supreme Court said that the proceedings may be conducted via video conferencing if the party requests for the same.
In June 2016, the Delhi High Court came up with the “Guidelines for the Conduct of Court Proceedings between Courts and remote sites" with respect to video conferencing laying down the following directions:
- There must be two points of communication.
- There must be coordinators at both points i.e in the courtroom and the remote location. If the person examined to be is in hospital, the Medical Superintendent or any officer in charge deputed by him must be the coordinator.
- A desktop/laptop with the video camera, microphones, speakers, internet connectivity and printer are required.
- The cost of video conferencing is to be paid by the parties that have requested for it.
The key factor of opting for video conferencing is that it should be used for delivering justice and shouldn’t cause any kind of inconvenience to the witnesses. The use of video conferencing is perceived as justice in form of digitalization. It should be employed as an alternative when there is the apprehension of justice delayed or denied, and to reduce the courts’ burden.
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