The COVID 19 global pandemic has forced the Indian judiciary to adopt digital processes at an unprecedented speed and scale. With a countrywide lockdown being imposed on 25 March 2020 and the enforcement of physical distancing, courts across India started using video conferencing to hear cases. This was accompanied by facilities for e-filing and e-payment, wherever possible. These changes were driven by a need to ensure that citizens continue to have access to justice during the lockdown and to avoid a justice gridlock once the pandemic has passed.
Against this background, DAKSH undertook a rapid review of lawyers’ experiences of accessing courts during the COVID 19 pandemic. For researchers studying the judicial system, this transition has provided an unexpected experiment into the effectiveness of online hearings and related digital processes like e-payment. Given that the district courts are the first port of call for litigants it is critical to understand the circumstances under which lawyers in these courts worked during this period. Since this is India’s first large-scale implementation of online hearings, e-filing and e-payment, the findings of this review will be vital in shaping the way forward for virtual courts, both immediately and in the longer term.
This rapid review began on 1 July 2020 and ended on 20 September 2020. It covered district courts in Delhi (Shahdara and Central Delhi), Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal, Barwani, Morena, and Sidhi) and Karnataka (Bengaluru Urban, Dakshina Kannada, and Kalaburagi).