A Digital Legal System Is Needed For Speedy Justice : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 21/01/2023

Relevance: GS-2: Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the Judiciary.

Key Phrases: Pendency of cases, Cost of delayed justice, e-Courts Project, Digital India initiative, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Online Dispute Resolution, Indian digital stack.

Why in News?

  • India takes an average of 2,184 days to dispose of a case in its subordinate courts, 1,128 days in its High Courts, and 1,095 days in the Supreme Court, bringing the total life cycle of a case in India to 12+ years.

Pendency of cases:

  • Over 4.7 crore cases are pending across various courts in India. Of them, 87.4 percent were pending in subordinate courts, 12.4 percent in High Courts, and nearly 1.8 lakh cases have been pending for over 30 years!
  • Many reasons account for this clogged judicial system, including a dearth of personnel (there are only two judges per one lakh Indians), an insufficient number of courts, a highly litigious Indian society, etc.

Cost of delayed justice:

  • This means that we are already looking at a timeline of 300+ years to dispose of only the backlog, and, India and its citizens bear the burden of over ₹80,000 crore each year due to such delays.
  • The cost of delayed justice stands at 0.77 percent of the GDP, in addition to the pain and agony of those who have to wait for years for outcomes.

Digitization of courts:

  • To digitize the courts, the Supreme Court launched the E-Committee way back in 2004, which implemented two phases of the e-Courts Project.
  • The introduction of the government’s Digital India initiative, along with the low-cost internet data access across the country now sees over 65.8 crore active users.
  • The Indian digital stack has led to remarkable innovation across e-governance aspects of public services delivery, as well as private sector innovation using it.
  • Hence the digital judicial system need not be slowed down, for worries of privacy, cyber security, and justice seeker protection.
  • Citizens’ trust in the judicial system can be built by showcasing the speed and accuracy of legal resolutions.
  • Over a period of time, such a robust digital judiciary would also allow for performance appraisal of the quality of judicial outcomes.
  • Building court automation can lead to a drastic reduction in the cost and length of judicial proceedings.
  • It can improve data and documentation access and verification of authenticity, simplify judicial procedures, and provide legal access to legal resources which would mean better access to justice.

Alternative Resolution:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), one that obviates trial, can resolve disputes faster and cheaper than traditional litigation. Along with Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), the judicial system can be considerably reformed.
  • A robust ODR ecosystem can reduce the burden of courts and run-of-the-mill civil cases, leaving the judiciary to focus on more nuanced cases that cannot move out of the courtroom.
  • Additionally, ODR is not merely the conversion of paper documents to digital files, or the virtualization of proceedings via online video calls.
  • India’s judiciary uses an estimated 11 billion sheets of paper each year, which translates into 109 billion litres of water, which ODR has the power to significantly reduce.

Benefits of the digital legal system:

  • Reduced need for storage infrastructure:
    • This space could be utilized for increasing courtrooms and recruiting more judges for enhanced access to justice and speedy Justice delivery.
    • Judges - Population ratio: 20 per Million for India (whereas for other countries it is approximately double).
  • Increased traceability of Case files:
    • This will reduce adjournments due to the traceability of affidavits which were stored electronically.
  • Reduced time for Court proceedings:
    • The time consumed in summoning records from the lower courts to the appellate courts is one of the major factors causing delays in cases.
    • Due to the digitization of the records, this time would reduce significantly.
  • Ensuring real justice:
    • In ‘State of Uttar Pradesh v. Abhay Raj Singh’, it was held by the Supreme Court that if court records go missing and reconstruction is not possible, the courts are bound to set aside the conviction. This would allow the accused to not be held accountable for the crimes committed.
    • This would lead to a miscarriage of Justice and hence digitization provides a panacea against this.
  • Ease of Procedure:
    • Lawyers can check the status of the filing, the status of applications and affidavits, the date of the next hearing, orders passed by the courts, etc. just by clicking on an app.
    • It would no more be required to physically visit the courts to know the status of the case.
  • Openness and transparency:
    • A litigant can be more informed about the status of his/ her court case. This will lead to enhanced trust in Judiciary.


  • Digitization can help truly democratize the judicial process in India, and make it available to everyone – the haves and the have-nots, the rich and mighty, and the downtrodden and destitute, alike.
  • The Judiciary must seek to leverage technology leadership and innovation with private partnerships.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. "In a country with over 65 crore active internet users, online dispute resolution has immense potential to cut the case backlog in the Indian judiciary." Discuss.