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Continue virtual courts in the post-COVID period as digital justice

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice in its report submitted on Friday recommended the continuation of virtual courts for identified categories of cases even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The panel chaired by senior BJP leader Bhupender Yadav submitted its report to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.

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Asserting that a court is more of a service than a place, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its report said it is time that the courtroom, regarded as the “last bastion of antiquated working practices”, opens its doors to the latest technology.

Underlining that digital justice is cheaper and faster besides addressing locational and economic handicaps, the panel strongly pitched for the continuation of virtual courts even after the COVID-19 pandemic gets over.

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The Virtual Court proceedings are continued beyond the pandemic duration for identified categories of cases with the consent of all parties, the panel recommended.

It has also suggested that virtual proceedings can be extended permanently to various Appellate Tribunals like TDSAT, IPAB, NCLAT, etc located across the country which do not require personal appearances of the parties/advocates.

Virtual courts expedite processes and procedures and are an improvement over traditional courts as they are more affordable, citizen-friendly and offer greater access to justice, the panel said in the report.

This is the first report to be presented by any Parliamentary Panel on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After examining various provisions, mentions, and glossaries with regard to the definition of court, the Committee opined that the court is more a service than a place, thereby supporting the virtual court proceedings being resorted to since the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown in March 2020.

The Committee held a series of meetings with Secretaries of the Department of Justice and Legal Affairs, Secretary-General of the Supreme Court, and representatives of the Bar Council of India and others on the issues related to the functioning of virtual courts.

Taking note of the reservations expressed by Bar associations about virtual court proceedings, the panel concluded that virtual courts may have shortcomings but they constitute advancement over the existing system and are worth embracing.

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