Virtual courts are here to stay: Justice Patel

Virtual courts are here to stay: Justice Patel

Courts in Maharashtra switched to virtual mode of hearing after the coronavirus pandemic began

Virtual courts are going to stay and there is a need to develop specialised software so that online hearings can be conducted securely, Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court said on Saturday.

Courts in Maharashtra switched to virtual mode of hearing after the coronavirus pandemic began. Physical hearings have resumed to some extent now.

"Virtual courts are here to stay and we cannot make it go away," Justice Patel said at an online seminar `A Vision for Virtual Courts'.

"Let me, however, make it clear that I am not suggesting that virtual court should be replacing physical hearing altogether," he said.

"I am saying video conferencing as an option is here to stay and it should remain an option," he added.

Dedicated software for the Indian judiciary was needed for conducting "safe and secured virtual hearing", Justice Patel added.

"The pandemic is here to stay....the virtual courts are here to stay. We will have to adapt ourselves for it," he added.

Justice (retd) R C Chavan said the need of the hour is paperless court hearings.

"Courts should urge for e-filings and digitally scanned copies instead of hard copies. We should all pray for and work towards virtual courts," he said.

Justice Patel said the best thing that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic was virtual hearing.

"This (virtual hearing) kicked in the 21st century of the court," he said.

Since he began hearing cases virtually, his court has heard 1,948 matters of which 940 have been disposed of, and this would not have been possible in physical courts, Justice Patel said.

The seminar had been organised by NGOs Forum for Fast Justice, Public Concern for Governance Trust and National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice.