Maintaining that a majority of lawyers face difficulty in accessing virtual court hearings, the Bar Council of India (BCI) on Thursday demanded that lawyers should be provided free laptops, iPads and WiFi connection to enable them to discharge their professional duties.
“The Union Government, in collaboration with the state governments, is requested and required to provide basic iPads/laptops to all needy advocates of the country for the purposes of e-filing and virtual hearings from the confines of their private space, from their homes, offices etc,” BCI said.
It said free and effective WiFi connections in the premises of all the bar associations of the country with advanced scanners and advanced Computer systems of a minimum of at least two in all district courts, four in all high courts and one in taluka courts bar associations should be provided.
The decision was taken in a meeting held on August 12, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said, adding that he would write to the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India, all Chief Ministers, the Union Minister for Law and Justice, the Electronics and Information Technology and Communications Department, chairperson of e-committee of the Supreme Court and all Chief Justices of high courts.
The CBI, which regulates the legal profession in India, also requested the Supreme Court and high courts to take early steps to resume hearings in open courts depending on the prevailing conditions.
“The places where COVID-19 cases are lesser and the s ituation appears to be normal and under control, a physical hearing may be resumed,” it said.
It also urged the e-Committees of high courts to provide two expert trainers for each bar association to train lawyers to help them learn in e-filing and virtual hearings.
Pointing out that all members of the legal fraternity did not have access to the requisite technological resources, BCI had earlier said 90 per cent of the advocates and judges across India would not be aware of the technology at the use and its nuances.
They would require some degree of training before the technology can be put to use by them, Mishra had said, adding many of these courts, or advocates practising there, may not be equipped with the modern technology required for e-filing, scanning and video conferencing.
The Supreme Court, high courts and district courts have been functioning in a restricted manner via video conferencing since the beginning of COVID19 lockdown on March 24. The hearings have often been hit by technical glitches.