Some Thoughts on E-Filing in Courts
The new year opened with a pertinent observation by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer on his last day in the apex court that junior advocates should be allowed to brief and argue matters wherever possible and also be paid decently. This observation brought to the fore an old and prevailing concern of the judicial fraternity viz the situation and status of the ‘juniors’. This is a very sensitive issue because the relationship between the senior and junior has multiple layers – the senior is the mentor, the teacher, the guru and yet at the same time he or she is also a professional competitor and sometimes a paymaster.
Whatever might be the undercurrents of this relationship, on most subjects the seniors and juniors are in general agreement. For instance, there is a concurrence against the recent decision to make e-filing of cases mandatory in courts. Many seniors are uncomfortable with learning a new skill set and are therefore opposed to the introduction of e-filing especially in lower courts. The opposition of the juniors is rather surprising because most of them are quite adept in the use of computers and internet in their daily practice – e.g. they often use legal websites to locate citations.
The benefits of technology were quite visible during the Covid times when Mumbai High Court introduced hearings using video conferencing. This enabled lawyers from every corner of Maharashtra to file petitions and interact with clients using multimedia websites like Zoom and Google Meet. It also proved beneficial to litigators who did not have to travel long distances to consult with their lawyers or to remain present in court.
One of the key arguments against e-filing is that technology is expensive and difficult to operate for newcomers and therefore should not be forced upon lawyers. It is true that it takes time to adapt in the beginning but once we learn it is easy to work upon. Once installed and used, the technology pays for itself by increasing efficiency and cutting down costs. It is also true that no technology is perfect and problem-free. But remedies can only be found if the problems are identified through use. We cannot run away from technology on the grounds that there are bound to be future problems, rather we should be open to seeking remedies. The very nature of technology and the very essence of technology is that if you don’t work on it, it will never become user friendly, it will never become cheap and it will never become accessible. Therefore saying ‘no’ to technology or saying ‘no’ to e-filing is counter-productive.
Although technology cannot be a substitute for legal acumen and experience, smart and innovative use of technology can certainly help lawyers go a long way in making their practice more efficient. Needless to say e-filing has other benefits like reducing the use of paper, long term storage of information and easy access of information. Certainly lawyers, as conscious members of society, would do well to take these beneficial aspects into consideration.
- Dr. Kalyan Kumar