HC directs Delhi govt to indicate timeline for upgrading Internet system in district courts

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New Delhi, Jun 5 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has directed the AAP government to file an affidavit indicating the time required for making provision to upgrade and enhance the existing leased lines from 34 MBPS to 1 GBPS in each district court here to enable smooth hearings through video conferencing and for digitalisation of the court records.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, which conducted the hearing through video conferencing, further asked the Delhi government to explain the reason for failing to take action for the past two-and-a-half years on this critical aspect.

The court was hearing a petition seeking to enlarge the functioning of courts, particularly family courts, in the prevalent times of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The plea sought direction to all the family courts to allow recording of evidence via video conferencing during the restricted functioning of courts owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, either by the presiding judge of the family court or by a commission.

Earlier, the high court had sought suggestions from its registrar and various bar associations on the issue of expanding the functioning of family courts, including for recording of evidence through video conferencing (VC).

During the hearing on Thursday, high court registrar Ritesh Singh and joint registrar Manish Aggarwal told the bench that the matters were being conducted in district courts via video conferencing within the limited bandwidth provided.

They pointed out that despite repeated letters addressed by the District and Session Judge (Headquarters), Tis Hazari and the Registrar General of the high court to the Secretary (Law and Judicial), Delhi government for grant of administrative approval and sanction of expenditure for enhancement and upgradation of the existing lease lines from 34 MBPS to 1 GBPS in each district court complex except for Rouse Avenue court, no steps have been taken in that direction.

They said the recent reminder was given by the high court to the law secretary on May 18, in which it has been highlighted that video conferencing is an urgent requirement for conducting court proceedings during the lockdown period and necessary sanctions be accorded expeditiously.

The bench was also informed that a request was made to the Delhi government on November 27, 2018, for sanction to digitise the records in the district courts so that more space can be vacated and put to use for other purposes by getting rid of voluminous files, but no positive response has been received so far from the authorities.

The bench asked the registrar to scan the documents and e-mail it to Delhi government counsel Anupam Srivastava at the earliest and asked the government to “file an affidavit indicating inter alia the time required for making the necessary provision for upgradation and enhancement of the existing lease lines and for digitization of the court records.” “The reason for failing to take actions for the past two and a half years on such a critical aspect shall also be explained. The said affidavit shall be filed by a senior officer of the Delhi government on or before June 12…,” the court said.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on June 16.

The initial issue relates to a matrimonial dispute in which the man was seeking dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty and recording of evidence in the proceedings was being held up due to the national wide lockdown in the wake of Covid-19.

With the functioning of the court from physical court rooms having come to a standstill, the man filed the plea in the form of a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a direction for recording of evidence in the proceeding via video conferencing or in such other manner as may be feasible.

The woman and her counsel, however, refused to proceed with recording of evidence through video conferencing or move ahead in any way other than in a physical court room. The court had noted that the man's counsel, perhaps anticipating this stand has also given the petition the colour of a PIL and sought the relief of direction to all the Family Courts to allow recording of evidence via video conferencing during the pandemic.

The man's counsel said many other similarly situated litigants are ready and willing to proceed with their cases through video conferencing but the concerned courts including the Family Courts in Delhi have not explored that option. PTI SKV HMP SA