25 L cases heard virtually in courts during COVID-19: Law minister

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New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI) As many as 25 lakh cases were heard virtually in courts across the country, including 9,000 by the Supreme Court, during the coronavirus-triggered restrictions, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Friday.

Prasad was hosting a virtual summit of ministers of justice of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries. He apprised the gathering of the high priority the government has given to framing business facilitating laws and rules, including Commercial Courts Act and arbitration laws, with a view to make India a preferred destination for investment and business.

Besides Prasad, ministers from Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and an 'authorised representative' of Pakistan's Ministry of Law and Justice attended the meet.

According to a Law Ministry statement, Prasad highlighted the initiatives taken by the government for providing affordable and easy access to justice for all.

He referred to pro bono legal services provided to the marginalised sections of the society.

Through Tele-Law services initiated in 2017, so far 3.44 lakh free legal consultations have been given to poor people through video conference, he said.

Prasad also highlighted e-Courts projects with video conferencing facility and the rolling out of virtual courts as part of the government's transformative change in process automation from the conventional brick and mortar court architecture.

'During COVID-19 pandemic, over 25 lakh hearings through video conference have taken place at various courts of India, out of which 9,000 virtual hearings have taken place at the Supreme Court alone,' the statement said quoting him.

As part of activities of Justice Ministers' Forum, the minister urged SCO member states to promote exchange of ideas, best practices and experiences in identified areas through the platform. He also stressed on widening the spectrum of activities being undertaken in the forum, in particular, and SCO in general. Earlier, an Experts Working Group of SCO member states discussed the importance of promoting ab alternative dispute resolution mechanism, besides cooperation in all spheres, including legal, given the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The meet also adopted a joint statement.

The joint statement calls for continuing the work on implementation of the action plans of the working groups of experts on forensic activities and legal services for 2018-2020, as well as to develop action plans for 2021-2023.

It also calls for considering organising exchange programmes for representatives of the ministries of law and justice of the SCO member-states to study the best practices in alternative dispute resolution.

According to the joint statement, efforts should continue to develop an online platform for the exchange of legal information, taking into account national laws. PTI NAB AAR AAR