‘Virtual courts can be made permanent’

Robust infrastructure is in place at Madras HC, says judge

Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, chairman of the computer committee of the Madras High Court, on Friday said the institution was fully equipped to make virtual courts a permanent feature, even after the threat of COVID-19 subsides, as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.

He told committee member P. Wilson that robust infrastructure had already been put in place at the High Court with the guidance of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi. Concurring with the judge, he said the Madras High Court had emerged as a pioneer in the conduct of proceedings through video-conference.

The judge told Mr. Wilson that the High Court, with the assistance of the Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency, had purchased 100 licences of Microsoft Teams software. Each judge had been given an individual licence for seamless conduct of proceedings. The rest of the licences were used by the Registry.

Till Monday, only 19 judges used to conduct virtual courts from their chambers in the High Court buildings. The rest were conducting the courts from their home offices.

However, from Monday, 33 judges had begun to conduct the courts from the High Court itself. All infrastructure required for it had been put in place.

While most judges preferred to conduct the virtual hearings from their chambers, some insisted on conducting the proceedings from the court halls. Arrangements had been made for that in the court halls too. Not just admission cases but also final hearings were being conducted through the virtual courts and the verdicts were being delivered as usual.

Individual licence

Similarly, all judicial officers in the State had also been given individual licence for the software and they were also conducting the court proceedings seamlessly, he said. The judge went on to state that even the Tamil Nadu Judicial Academy was taking virtual classes and seminars from its offices in Madurai, Chennai and Coimbatore.

Mr. Wilson said the Parliamentary committee had taken note of the great strides made by Madras High Court, adding that initially there was resistance to virtual hearings from lawyers “but now everyone wants virtual courts”.

“Yes, in fact, I was telling the Chief Justice that earlier we were trying to sell the concept of virtual courts to the lawyers but now we are doing the other way round,” Justice Sivagnanam remarked.

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