Establishment of e-courts in India is a much awaited dream. However, the Delhi High Court has taken a significant step in this direction. After introducing the filing of electronic documents through CDs, the Delhi High Court has released the Practice Directions for Electronic Filing (E-Filing) in the High Court of Delhi.
These practice directions will apply to Electronic Filing (e-filing) of cases in the High Court of Delhi and will be effective from the dates and for the categories of cases as may be notified by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi from time to time.
Except as provided elsewhere in these practice directions, all petitions, applications, appeals and all pleadings/documents in fresh, pending and disposed of cases will be filed electronically in the manner hereafter provided.
The original text material, documents, notice of motion, memorandum of parties, main petition or appeal, as the case may be, and interlocutory applications etc. will be prepared electronically using MS Word or Open Office software. The formatting style of the text has also been prescribed in this regard.
The documents should be converted into Portable Document Format (PDF) using any PDF converter or in-built PDF conversion plug-in provided in the software. Where the document is not a text document and has to be enclosed with the petition, appeal or application or other pleadings, the document should be scanned using an image resolution of 300 dpi (dot per inch) and saved as a PDF document. The maximum permissible size of the file that can be uploaded at the time of e-filing is 100 MB.
The text documents prepared in MS Word/Open Office as well as scanned documents should be merged as a single PDF file and bookmarked. The merged documents should be uploaded at the time of e-filing by using the facility provided at the e-filing centre in the High Court Lawyers’ Chambers Block-I. The screen shots of the manner of accessing the e-filing portal and filling up the relevant columns for the purpose of e-filing have also been provided.
All electronic documents filed using the e-filing system will have to be digitally signed by the advocate for the parties or where it is being filed in person, by the party concerned. The list of recognized Digital Signature Providers and the procedure involved in appending single or multiple digital signatures have also been prescribed.
Court fee can be paid by purchase of electronic court fee either from the online facility provided by the Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (http://www.shcilestamp.com/) or the counters provided for the purpose in the Delhi High Court or from any other authorized court fee vendor in Delhi. The payment code whether automatically generated on payment of court fee online through the payment gateway of Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited on the receipt when court fee is purchased from the counter, has to be filled in the appropriate box at the time of e-filing.
The originals of the following documents that are scanned and digitally signed either by counsel or parties in person at the time of e-filing should be preserved for production upon being directed by the court at any time. In any event, they should be preserved at least for a period of two years till after the final disposal of the case: (Final disposal shall include disposal of appeals if any).
(a) Signed Vakalatnama,
(b) Signed and notarized / attested affidavit,
(c) Documents of title or conveyance, agreements etc.,
(d) Any other document whose authenticity is likely to be questioned.
The responsibility for producing the originals and proving their genuineness shall be of the party that has electronically filed the scanned copies thereof. Access to documents and pleadings filed electronically in a case will be provided only to advocates for the parties in that case or the concerned parties themselves. The advocate or the party may obtain documents from the Filing Counter by mailing an application along with a blank CD-R/DVD-R to be provided by the party.
Exemption from e-filing of the whole or part of the pleadings and/or documents may be permitted by the Court upon an application for that purpose being made to the Court in the following circumstances:
(i) E-filing is, for the reasons to be explained in the application, not feasible; or
(ii) There are concerns about confidentiality and protection of privacy; or
(iii) The document cannot be scanned or filed electronically because of its size, shape or condition; or
(iv) The e-filing system is either inaccessible or not available for some reason; or
(v) Any other sufficient cause.
In addition to the prescribed mode of service, notices, documents, pleadings that are filed electronically may also be served through email by the High Court of Delhi. The e-mail ID of the High Court of Delhi (email@example.com) will be published on its website so as to enable the recipients to verify the source of the e-mail at the e-mail addresses, if available, of the advocates or parties.
Electronic filing through the e-filing centre is permissible up to 4 p.m. on the date of filing. All other rules relating to holidays etc. for the purpose of computation of limitation, as specified in the Rules of the High Court of Delhi will apply to online electronic filing as well. The period during which e-filing system is in-operational for any reason will be excluded from the computation of such time. This, however, will not extend limitation for such filing for which the facility of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 or any other statutory extension of period of limitation is not available.
For electronic filing done through the e-filing centre in the Delhi High Court premises, the rules relating to time for the purposes of limitation will be no different from those applicable for the normal filing.
As and when the facility of electronic online filing commences, such electronic online filing would be permissible up to midnight on the date of filing.
Caveats can be registered, and all written statements, counter affidavits or reply affidavits, affidavits by way of rejoinder, documents, applications in pending matters or in disposed of matters, supplementary pleadings, documents etc in pending cases can be filed electronically using the e-filing system.
Lawyers as well as parties can print hard copies of all pleadings and documents filed electronically for their use in the court or elsewhere. Likewise the Registry will, wherever required, prepare hard copies for use of the courts.
The pleadings and documents electronically filed will be stored on an exclusive server maintained under the control and directions of the High Court of Delhi. Each case will be separately labeled and encrypted for this purpose to facilitate easy identification and retrieval. The security of such document and pleadings will be ensured and access to them would be restricted in the manner indicated hereinbefore and as may be notified from time to time.
Back-up copies of all electronically filed pleadings and documents will be preserved in the manner decided by the Court on its administrative side.
Overall the initiatives and efforts of Delhi High Court are highly commendable though much is still to be achieved. Perry4Law welcomes this effort of Delhi High Court towards making the Judicial System expeditious, economic, transparent and accountable.