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India connects 2,927 courts under e-Courts Project

At present, as many as 2,927 court complexes across India have been linked up through a high-speed wide area network (WAN), as part of the government e-Courts Project. It aims to connect a total of 2,992 sites and leverage ICT for improved justice delivery.

An objective of the e-Courts project is to provide designated services to litigants, lawyers, and the judiciary through the universal computerisation of district and subordinate courts in the country.

According to a press release, the Department of Justice (DoJ) along with government-run organisation, BSNL, is working to connect the sites that are located all over the country using different modes of connectivity, such as optical fibre cables (OFC), radio frequency (RF), and very small aperture terminals (VSAT), among others.

DOJ and the Supreme Court e-Committee developed the e-Courts Project, which is one of the largest digital networks in the world. In May 2018, BSNL was mandated to provide Managed MPLS VPN services to all these sites. The organisation has a pan-India presence with the latest state-of-the-art technology, high-end telecom infrastructure, and transmission equipment. BSNL is also set up in all corners of India, including the North East region, Jammu, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Many courts under the e-Courts project are located in far-flung areas that cannot be connected with terrestrial cables and are called Technically Not Feasible (TNF) sites, the department aims to bridge this digital divide.

With persistent deliberations, meetings, and coordination with different stakeholders including BSNL and the courts, the department has been able to reduce the total TNF sites from 58 in 2019 to 14 in 2020. This has saved public money as the cost of providing connectivity through alternative means like VSATs are much higher. The department has also decided to use the newly-inaugurated submarine (undersea) cable to provide connectivity to five TNF sites in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The press release explained that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of connectivity has become greater as suddenly courts are under pressure to conduct a large number of online cases. The DoJ has therefore constituted a high-powered committee with representatives from BSNL, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), and the e-Committee to review the bandwidth requirement.

The concerned authorities have taken a major leap towards digital transformation, it is successfully leveraging digital technologies to transform the Judiciary and provide access to justice to ordinary citizens, the release added.

As part of the National e-Governance Plan, the e-Courts Project is an integrated mission mode project that has been under implementation since 2007 to digitalise operations in the country’s judicial system. It is based on the National Policy and Action Plan for the Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in the Indian Judiciary.

The government approved the computerisation of 14,249 district and subordinate courts under the first phase of the e-Courts Project, which ran from 2007-2015. Working towards further ICT enhancement in the courts, the second phase of the project was approved by the Cabinet in July 2015, under which 16,845 courts have been computerised.

As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, in November, DoJ and the Supreme Court e-Committee launched the virtual traffic courts and e-Challan initiative to digitalise court proceedings. The system consists of an online court managed by a virtual Judge, which is not a person but an algorithm, whose jurisdiction can be extended to the entire state and will work round-the-clock.

As a result, citizens will not have to wait in lines in courts to pay fines or interact face-to-face with the traffic police. It is expected to increase productivity, promote greater accountability, and reduce corruption in the Traffic Police Department.

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