Need for an Integrated Digital System in Indian Justice System

Synopsis: Implementation of an integrated digital system for the criminal justice system will help in speedy justice.

Background

43 years old Vishnu Tiwari was recently found innocent by the Allahabad High Court. Vishnu was sentenced to life imprisonment for rape under the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. He spent 20 years in prison before this decision.

  • His appeal before the Allahabad High Court was pending for 16 years. The reasons behind that were missing documents or documents in the wrong format for listing the case. Moreover, Vishnu’s lawyer had no interest in pursuing the case. So, the appeal stayed defective.
  • Shweta Singh Rana, a legal aid lawyer, was given the case in 2019, at the request of the jail authorities to the High Court. The High Court pointed out in its verdict that the State government did not consider converting his life sentence after 14 years.
  • A sincere lawyer and aware family members are essential to secure justice. However, these facilities have become luxuries that only prisoners with good economic conditions have access to.
How a poorly designed system is to be blamed in this case?

An effective justice system should be strong enough to ensure justice for everyone, irrespective of the economic condition of an individual.

  1. Firstly, there is an absence of an integrated digital platform for the criminal justice system. Moreover, present systems are designed poorly.
  2. Secondly, Digitisation has transformed the delivery of public services like passports. Whereas, the criminal justice system is still functioning with old procedures and paper-based processes.
    • The eCourts project has made significant progress in digitising the works of courts. Still, large gaps are present in the system.
  3. Thirdly, criminal cases involve coordination and communication between various institutions such as the police, prosecutors, legal services authorities, and forensic labs. These interactions are not smooth.
How will an integrated digital system help?

It allows the interaction between various institutions through a digital platform. This system normalizes the format and content of data across all the systems. Thereby, it helps in smooth communication and avoiding duplication of data.

  • Firstly, this system will notify the registry about the defects in a particular appeal, un-rectified for an extended period. The system would also inform the accused that his lawyer was not pursuing his case carefully.
  • Secondly, the legal service authority would be informed of the case and the lawyer could be replaced. The system should monitor the quality of representation of the lawyer.
  • Thirdly, after 14 years of imprisonment, the system would have notified the State government that the prisoner was eligible for re-sentencing of his sentence.
Conclusion

Priority must be given to speeding up the implementation of such a system. It will help in providing transparent, real-time access to criminal justice information to all stakeholders, including accused persons.

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