Digital Courts

From Justice Definitions Project

What is a Digital Court?

Digital Court is a foundational digital infrastructure for the law and justice sector; ideally, it functions as a natively digital platform through which judicial services may be delivered. In a Digital Court, hearings can be done online, filing of documents and recording of evidence can be done online. Establishing a digital court involves not just building a technical platform, but also re-engineering administrative processes to: (i) enhance access to justice, (ii) boost existing systemic capacity, and (iii) improve the efficiency of overall judicial administration system.[1]

  • Key Components

(i) Process Re-Engineering[2]

Technology can enhance traditional court processes by automating repetitive tasks, reducing costs and effort. Examples include:

  • Referencing case numbers instead of filing entire petitions.
  • Automating data entry and using audio-visual media for evidence.
  • Streamlining scheduling and enabling digital notice service.

Beyond automation, transformative technology can handle non-judicial tasks, like determining compensation, reducing the burden on judges. Legal frameworks need adaptation to integrate these technologies effectively.

(ii) Digital Infrastructure[3]

A digital infrastructure is vital for the eCourts Project, serving as the technological framework that supports various components like knowledge, processes, platforms, and data. It caters to diverse stakeholder needs, optimizing judicial time, enabling seamless online case filing, and integrating with other systems. Unlike closed systems, it encourages collaboration among justice delivery entities, enhancing access to justice.

(iii) Online Case Management Systems[4]

Online Case Management Systems refer to digital platforms designed to efficiently manage and track case-related information, encompassing vital aspects such as status updates, hearing dates, and associated documents. These systems offer centralized digital storage and organization for case documents, judgments, and legal records, ensuring easy accessibility and seamless searchability. Additionally, they facilitate the electronic delivery of legal notices and summonses to involved parties through email or secure online portals.

(iv) Electronic Filing and Documentation[5]

An electronic platform enables online case and document filing, reducing paperwork. Digital technologies like virtual hearings and digital evidence presentation streamline court proceedings. Security is ensured through digital signatures and secure authentication for authenticity and integrity of filed documents and communications. This digital shift modernizes legal processes, making them efficient and secure.

Historical Evolution of Digital Courts In India

  • During the 1990s, the Indian judiciary embarked on a path to integrate computers and information technology, aiming to significantly enhance operational efficiency. The initial phases of this technological adoption primarily focused on fundamental automation for case management and efficient record-keeping.[6] In a pivotal move in 2005, the Government of India launched the E-Courts Project, a nationwide initiative aimed at computerizing district and subordinate courts.[7] The project's central objectives included establishing a centralized case information system, enabling online case status inquiries, and digitizing court records.
  • Following this, in 2006, e-courts were incorporated into the broader framework of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).[8] This comprehensive initiative was designed not only to enhance the accessibility and reliability of government services but also to set the stage for potential applications in digital courts, leveraging initiatives such as e-Pramaan and G-I cloud to harness the power of cloud computing.[9]
  • In 2012, the introduction of the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) represented a significant milestone.[10] This online platform seamlessly provided access to case information from district courts across India, promoting transparency and expediting judicial processes. Subsequent years witnessed substantial advancements, notably the Integrated Case Management Information System (ICMIS) and the launch of eCourts Services in 2014.[11] ICMIS played a crucial role in facilitating digital case filing, tracking, and overall management, while eCourts Services introduced an online portal offering comprehensive case information and legal services.
  • Advancing further in 2019, the National Court Management Systems (NCMS) played a pivotal role in the digital transformation of the judiciary.[12] By integrating various case-related activities and enhancing transparency, NCMS aimed to significantly boost judicial productivity. Looking forward to 2021, the Indian government outlined ambitious plans to establish e-Sewa Kendras across diverse districts.[13] These centers were envisioned to provide a spectrum of services related to court cases, leveraging digital platforms for case filing, tracking, and litigant support.
  • In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court in Meters and Instruments vs. Kanchan Mehta,[14] underscored the imperative of updating directions and utilizing modern technology, aligning with the principles enshrined in Articles 39A and 21 of the Constitution, to achieve equitable access to justice. The Court emphasized the need to leverage technology for paperless courts, thus reducing overcrowding, enabling the conduct of certain cases online without physical presence, simplifying procedures, and encouraging the use of video conferencing for procedural compliance.
  • Under Chief Justice D. N. Patel's direction on 17.08.2020, the SCMSC launched a project for paperless digital functioning of NI Act Courts in Delhi.[15] The goal was to establish 34 Digital NI Act Courts by 17.11.2020, handling complaints through mandatory e-filing and video conferencing. The process involved depositing original documents with the court and utilizing AI tools for efficient case management and legal research.

Products of Digital Courts in India

  • A customized Case Information Software (CIS) built on Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) has been developed.[16] CIS National Core Version 3.2 is in use for District Courts, while the High Courts are using CIS National Core Version 1.0.
  • Utilizing the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) developed through the eCourts Project with elastic search technology, lawyers and litigants can access case status info for 20.86 crore cases and 18.02 crore orders/judgments.[17] It also provides reasons for case delays.
  • Virtual Courts, presided over by judges through virtual electronic platforms, operate 24/7 and possess statewide jurisdiction.[18] Additionally, Delhi High Court has recently initiated 34 Digital Courts to adjudicate cheque bounce cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.[19]
  • An eFiling system has launched for legal document submission, offering advanced features such as online Vakalatnama submission, eSigning, video oath recording, online payment, filing multiple IAs/applications, Portfolio Management, bilingual mode, and online court fee, fine, penalty, and deposit payments.[20]
  • ‘Judgment & Order Search’ portal has been inaugurated for the convenience of its stakeholders in searching judgments easily by providing a repository for Judgments and Final Orders of the High Courts.[21]
  • National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP) has been developed for technology enabled process serving and issuing of summons.[22]
  • eSewa Kendras aim to bridge the digital gap by offering e-filing services to lawyers and litigants.[23] These centers assist lawyers and litigants with information, facilitation, and e-filing.

Case Study

Digital NI Act Courts[1]

  • Delhi experienced a surge in Section-138 NI Act complaints, with cheque dishonor cases constituting approximately 42% of all pending civil and criminal cases. The backlog of NI Act cases in the District Courts has reached alarming levels, necessitating urgent remedial measures.
  • To mitigate this issue, the Digital NI Act Courts was enforced, a completely paperless digital environment for handling new NI Act complaints - this includes conducting hearings via video conferencing to enhance efficiency.
  • The e-Filing portal of the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India is the designated platform for complainants and their lawyers to file their complaints.
  • E-Sewa Kendra in district courts will offer dedicated facilitation for NI Act Cases, aiding advocates and litigants in complaint filing.
  • Video Conferencing (VC) Courts will use the Cisco Webex platform, with links shared on the official website for convenience.
  • On a scheduled hearing date, relevant stakeholders, including magistrates, readers/ahlmads, court stenographers, litigants, and their respective lawyers, can seamlessly join the Digital Court-Room using provided links for VC and digital files.rm for complainants and their lawyers to file their complaints
  • In compliance with the standard operating procedure (SOP), original copies of crucial documents, such as the dishonored cheque, legal demand notice, dispatch receipts, and service proof, will be submitted to the court for safe custody

Similar Terms but Different Meanings

  • Paperless Courts

Paperless courts involve moving from traditional, paper-based record-keeping and processes to a digital system.[25] Documents, case files, evidence, and court proceedings are stored and managed in electronic formats rather than relying on physical paperwork.

  • Online Hearing

Online hearings entail conducting legal proceedings, like court hearings or trials, using digital communication tools and internet platforms.[26] Video conferencing software, electronic document sharing, and specialized online platforms are commonly utilized for seamless online hearings.

  • Virtual Courts

A virtual court is an arrangement in which judicial processes are carried out online via digital technology and channels of communication. The judges, counsel, litigants, and other participants can participate in court procedures without personally being present in a courtroom by using video conferencing, electronic file management, and other online methods.

Research that engages with Digital Courts

  • The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) has published a Working Paper on the 'Problems with the e-Courts data', which faces data quality issues such as standardization problems, missing information, and data entry errors. It quantifies these issues, including case-type and statute name mismatches, missing or malformed data, and state-specific error variations.
  • The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has published a Report evaluating the eCourts project, namely, 'Information & Communication Technology in the Indian Judiciary: Evaluation of the eCourts Project Phase-II'. The research found widespread technology adoption but noted the need for regular training, particularly for litigants. Common Service Centres can help bridge awareness gaps. Technology adoption has potential in reducing pendency rates, emphasizing the importance of ongoing performance monitoring for optimal eCourts utilization.
  • The blog 'Fairness and Legislation for Virtual Courts' explores procedural justice based on legal statutes like CPC, CrPC, and the Indian Evidence Act, highlighting the significance of fairness and evidence authentication. It also discusses the 2023 Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill's recognition of digital summons, necessitating CPC and CrPC amendments, and emphasizes the importance of certificates for authenticating digital evidence and safeguards in online hearings and witness statements via video conferencing.
  • The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has published a Report, namely, ‘Open Courts in the Digital Age: A Prescription for an Open Data Policy’ which explains the technological foundations of open data, traces the evolution of open courts in India, highlights the issues that remain for open courts, and suggests how an open data policy can address potential privacy concerns, among other recommendations.

Way Forward

In summary, a digital court is a technology-driven system revolutionizing judiciary operations for better access, efficiency, and capacity. Its key aspects encompass process enhancement, tech infrastructure, online case management, and electronic filing. India's progression towards digital courts began in the 1990s, leading to significant initiatives like the E-Courts Project and the National Judicial Data Grid. Prominent offerings in India's digital courts include tailored case software, the National Judicial Data Grid, virtual courts, e-filing systems, and eSewa Kendras. It's vital to distinguish paperless courts (digitized records), online hearings (virtual proceedings), and digital courts (comprehensive tech integration) for clarity.


  1. e-Committee Supreme Court of India, ‘Vision document for Phase III of eCourts Project’. <>
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Supra note 1.
  5. Digital Courts: End User Manual <>
  6. eFiling <>
  7. Somesh K. Mathur, ‘Indian Information Technology Industry: Past, Present and Future & A Tool for National Development’, 2(2) JTAIT (2006). <>
  8. <>
  9. Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, ‘National e-Governance Plan’ <>
  10. Anisha Gupta, ‘State of Data Regulation in India’, The Centre for Internet and Society. <>
  11. National Judicial Data Grid <>
  12. PM Narendra Modi launches Integrated Case Management Information System', Financial Express (New Delhi, 10 May 2017). <>
  13. National Court Management Systems Committee, 'Policy & Action Plan' <>
  14. <>
  15. M/s Meters and Instruments Private Limited & Anr. v. Kanchan Mehta, 2018 (1) SCC 560.
  16. SCMSC Delhi High Court, Digital NI Act Courts in Delhi: Project Implementation Guidelines <>
  17. The Committee for Computerization of High Court and SubordinateCourts, High Court Of Chhattishgarh <>
  18. Supra note 11.
  19. <>
  20. Supra note 16.
  21. eFiling Services <>
  22. eSCR <>
  23. National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes <>
  24. e-Sewa Kendra <>
  25. Supra note 16.
  26. <>
  27. E-Courts Mission Mode Project <>
  28. Supra note 1.
  1. Delhi High Court, "Digital NI Act Courts in Delhi-Project Implementation Guidelines" available at:
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