With India gradually embracing technology and progressing towards the realisation of a ‘Digital India', governance, as we know it has transformed into a two-way channel of communication between the government and its citizens. Citizens' expectations from the government have increased – they expect the same or higher quality of digital services from government as they would from commercial organisations. This suggests that identifying smarter ways of working across public services including the judicial administration has never been more relevant. Providing transparent, accessible, and responsive public sector services is the need of the hour.
One of the recent developments that the government has undertaken to meet these expectations is digitisation of legal systems in the country. The Centre has asked all states to link prisons with courts through video conferencing for expeditious trial and to save costs of escorting undertrials to courts.
Currently, among the major contributing factors to delays in bringing cases to court and in fact, meting out justice are lack of manpower, transparency and inadequate data on pending cases. These challenges are making it difficult to streamline India's justice system.
Collaboration technology, in particular video conferencing can be the savior to revamp India's legal processes, by providing those critical communication links between courtrooms, offices, visitation centres or prisons, while decreasing travel time, security risks, and inmate transportation costs for the judicial system.
Telejustice for Indian courtrooms
Video conferencing today is not what it used to be. High-quality collaboration technologies offer seamless connectivity, crystal clear audio and video capabilities and content sharing services. Due to these advancements, “in-person” now has an expanded meaning.
Secure video conferencing technology, for example, connects those in remote geographies, as well as those with disabilities, budgetary, or travel-limiting restrictions to the legal system with convenience and minimal cost.
By adopting a strong collaboration solution, courts can:
- Speed up the justice process – Time spent traveling to and from the court can be reduced or eliminated, which allows for greater productivity for judges and attorneys. With less time wasted in travel to the courtroom, more cases can be handled and at a faster pace. This enhances the justice experience for citizens as they spend less time waiting for the legal process to unfold, decisions upon which often have major impacts on their lives and businesses.
- Enable better witness protection services for victims of crimes – those who have been battered or abused or those who have escaped from human trafficking who may be too traumatized or threatened to face the accused in court can use solutions such as video conference to feel safe and secure.
- Share critical resources – Courthouses and even courts can share important foreign language or sign language interpreters. Given the large number of languages spoken in India, it's crucial to share these human resources to ensure that the right interpreter, especially a court-certified interpreter, is available when and where needed.
- Help judges work from anywhere – Judges can remain connected from remote locations and home offices while maintaining lines of visual communication with officers and magistrates for off-hours, time-sensitive hearings, such as for arrest warrants.
In addition, it also helps:
- Provide inmates with access to physicians without being worried about issues of distance and safety. Telehealth video solutions allow healthcare professionals to remotely provide access to medical services while increasing public safety and driving down the cost of these services.
- Reintroduce classes and continue education programs as a basis for new careers upon inmates' re-entry into society.
Delays in administering justice, a build-up of case files, and overworked legal teams have been long-standing issues in the Indian judicial system. However, fast forward to today, thanks to advancements in network connectivity, technology and the government's focus on digitization, the country has the opportunity to be one of the most efficient legal systems in the world.
Collaboration technology which provides integrated communication systems that includes video conferencing, audio solutions, recording, streaming and content sharing capabilities modernizes India's legal system and is a very useful way for courts to ensure justice is not delayed and cases are closed in a timely manner.
The author is director sales, government & commercial business, Polycom India & SAARC. Views are personal.