As HC goes paperless, advocate clerks fear job loss

As Kerala High Court goes paperless, advocate clerks fear becoming jobless

The paperless court project of the Kerala High Court was formally inaugurated on January 1

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

The Kerala High Court has made a major technological leap by implementing a state of the art application that enables not just paperless court proceedings but also has artificial intelligence-based features for roster analysis and distribution of cases to reduce pendency.

However, the shift to paperless procedures right from filing of petitions to the judgement has triggered fear among thousands of advocate clerks of going jobless. There are also concerns among the lawyers that they will be burdened with the task of filing petitions and other clerical procedures.

The paperless court project of the Kerala High Court was formally inaugurated on January 1. It offers a lot of features for advocates and judges, right from referring to previous cases and legal publications online. One of the highlights of the application is the AI-enabled roster analysis facility for the Chief Justice. It helps the Chief Justice to evaluate pendency of cases before each judge, identify reasons for pendency and approximate time required for clearing pendency.

Judges could even dictate orders using the voice to text conversion facility. Already two district level courts and six court rooms of the Kerala High Court have become fully paperless smart court rooms where even witness statements are recorded using voice-to-text conversion facility.

Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan, who is a member of the computer committee of the High Court, said in a presentation on the paperless application that it was designed by considering the feedback from advocates. He also said that the new system would bring about transformative changes in the justice dispensation in the state.

Meanwhile, advocate clerks were concerned that the shift to total e-filing would render around 10,000 advocate clerks in the state jobless in due course. Majority of the advocate clerks are computer illiterate and aged. Moreover, many advocates may also prefer not to use the service of clerks to reduce the costs.

Kerala Advocate Clerks' Association state president Rajendran V K said that the concerns of advocate clerks who were playing crucial role in the judicial system over the decades were not considered while shifting to paperless court. There should be provision for advocate clerks also to access the online application. The association is also joining as a party in a case pending before the Supreme Court in this connection, he said.

K B Pradeep, a senior High Court lawyer, said that the new application would not help in addressing pendency as it requires recruitment of more judges. At present around 1.5 lakh cases are pending before Kerala High Court, while the number of judges are 47, he pointed out. He also said that the shift to e-filing of application would only increase burden of lawyers. Since majority of the bench clerks are computer illiterate, the lawyers themselves would have to do the petition filing procedures also. Shift to paperless system is good, but should be done in phased manner, he said.

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