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'Paperless' SC initiative still distant dream as ICMIS amidst teething problems • AORs insist on parallel manual filing system

 The Supreme Court is not ready to go paperless, as yet, as Advocates on Record (AORs) are unwilling to adopt the new Integrated Case Management and Information System (ICMIS), which is not free of errors.

Supreme Court ready to go paperless? Not yet
Supreme Court ready to go paperless? Not yet

The Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) yesterday told the Supreme Court registrars that the Supreme Court’s new case management system (ICMIS) should only be allowed to run parallel to the old system of manual filing, as the new system’s deficiencies were causing inconvenience to the AORs and their clients.

SCAORA president Gopal Singh yesterday told the registrars Kapil Mehta and Chirag Bhanu Singh to convey to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar, the request that cases should not be dismissed-in-default until the ICMIS is tested to be error-free.

SCAORA secretary Nandini Gore told us that since the court had reopened after the summer vacations, several cases had almost been dismissed by the Supreme Court after confusion was created over their dates of hearing, and last minute additions and deletions in the cause list which the AORs were not aware of due to a mismatch between lawyers' and judges' cause lists in the ICMIS. Advocates managed to save such dismissals after specially clarifying the situation to the court, Gore told us yesterday.

Gore and Singh had arranged for a demonstration on how to use the ICMIS, for the benefit of the AORs, to be conducted by Madhya Pradesh high court registrar Kuldeep Singh Kushwaha in the CJI’s court yesterday at 4pm.

Kushwaha and his team of eight people have developed the ICMIS from scratch over the last four months, Mehta said addressing the gathering of AORs which had assembled for the demonstration.

It is largely a work in progress, as of now, with only the Madhya Pradesh high court having been integrated into it and the registry predicting that it will take at least three more months for the remaining high courts to upload their case content on the ICMIS.

++The ICMIS purports to do this 

Mehta told the audience that the ICMIS aims to bring “transparency, objectivity and uniformity” into the system of filing and keeping a track of litigation in India.

Mehta said that the Supreme Court’s website till now lacked a system of integration across the country. The ICMIS purports to link not only the high courts and the lower courts to the Supreme Court’s e-filing website, but even every police station and every jail in India will eventually be linked to it.

He told the audience that the registry had planned on showing it a comparative chart of differences in the old and new system.

“Today my request is at least see the flowchart – what is the scheme of things, what is the [ICMIS] program all about, what it will offer you. We will literally try to bring the virtual office we are running, right at your doorsteps. That is literally all that we intend to do,” Mehta said addressing the AORs.

The presentation, however, could not proceed to a depiction of the comparative changes before yesterday’s session ran out of time as the AORs had a host of queries about and reservations against the ICMIS.

++System errors 

Among several defects which the AORs pointed out in the ICMIS was the fact that it was displaying a botched up causelist (the list of cases that are scheduled to be heard at the court). The dates of hearing mentioned before each case on the causelist, was shifting by a day on its own, every 24 hours. This was causing confusion and inconvenience to the clients, many of whom also travel from outside Delhi for their case hearings.

Other major grievances among the AORs included being forced to enter cumbersome case tracking details, such as the “diary number”, into the system, a slow loading website that allegedly “crashes every two minutes”, the causelist not indicating the courtroom numbers in which the cases on it are to be heard, having an Aadhaar number (UID) being mandatory to register on the ICMIS and access anything it provides, among others.

Kushwaha admitted the errors that the AORs pointed out yesterday, and asked them to wait another week before the ICMIS is more reliable.

A similar demonstration session was held on Saturday for the clerks of the AORs, one AOR told us. Many AORs complained that even these open house demonstrations should be deferred to a time when the ICMIS is “completely streamlined”.

One AOR commented: “Some of the AORs are quite aged to adapt to this new system. We are used to the concept of an OTP [one-time password] because we are into online shopping. When they [the aged AORs] hear they have to use an OTP, they get scared.”

Registration on the ICMIS requires a user to create a username which is the same as their email address, create a password, enter an Aadhar number, submit these details and and then enter the ICMIS by clicking on the one-time verification link that is then sent to their email address. On being demonstrated this registration process yesterday, one AOR asked: “And where will we get that password [which we need to enter in order to register]?”

The Supreme Court can be anything but paperless until the new system is the only system to go – a goal which is not achievable at present considering the advocates’ collective resistance to change, their uneasiness with the use of technology, as also the failure of the new technology in inspiring the degree of confidence that its users are looking for.

But it is also not backing down from the initiative, and the ICMIS is here to stay, as the registry continues to treat its teething troubles.

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