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Eyeing a paperless judiciary, Sitharaman allocates Rs 7,000 cr for Phase 3 of eCourts Project

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. PTI.

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocated an outlay of Rs 7,000 crore for the third phase of the eCourts Project in her Budget Speech on Wednesday so that the judiciary can seamlessly move towards a paperless and high-tech one as well as for efficient administration of justice.

The finance minister made the announcement in her shortest budget speech ever in the Lok Sabha. Her annual budget speech lasted for about 87 minutes. “For efficient administration of justice, Phase III of eCourts Project will be launched with an outlay of Rs 7000 crore,” the finance minister said.

Phase three of the eCourts Project outlines a judicial system that is more accessible, efficient and equitable for every individual who seeks justice, or is part of the delivery of justice, in India, according to details on the website of the Department of Justice in the Union law Ministry.

“It envisions an infrastructure for the judicial system that is natively digital. It does not merely digitize paper-based processes; it transforms processes for a digital environment. Phase III will enable any litigant or lawyer to file a case from anywhere, at any time, without having to go to multiple windows in the premises of any specific court,” according to the executive summary of a draft document put in the public domain by the department.

Earlier, the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns had compelled a reluctant judiciary to adopt the virtual mode of hearing cases for nearly two years. It is only last year, in 2022 that the courts including the apex court moved back to the physical mode of hearing litigants after following the hybrid model for some time. Judges and advocates who had earlier been doubtful about dealing with cases virtually recognized the advantages of a digital approach.

After digitizing nearly 19,000 trial courts, the Supreme Court’s eCommittee had drafted a detailed project report for extensive use of Information Technology in judicial processes to make India’s courts completely paperless and also enable live streaming of court proceedings

The top court’s eCommittee led by CJI DY Chandrachud had chalked out a Rs 6,257 crore roadmap for the third phase of the eCourts Project, which would in turn help litigants and lawyers e-file their pleas.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had recently indicated that the phase three of the project was in the pipeline.

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