During the COVID-19 lockdown, technology played an essential role in maintaining the continuity of legal services in India. During the lockdown period, 1.92 crore cases were heard via video conferencing by various district and high courts out of which 1.78 crore cases were disposed of. In line with the advancement of digitization, the government is focusing on using next-generation technologies to increase access to legal services.
Where have the changes begun?
There was a lot of discussion about making legal services more accessible to every gram-panchayat at the ‘All India District Legal Services Authority meet’ held in July 2022. The common services centers in gram panchayats are in the process of being completely integrated with the e-courts. The government is aiming at having one e-court integrated common service center at every gram panchayat. Currently, there are 4.2 lakh fully functional, e-court-integrated common service centers in India.
As a part of the third phase of the e-court project proposal, the government aims at reducing footfall at the physical court by having dedicated e-filing facilities, touchscreen kiosks, and automated systems across the country.
Importance of local language in a tech-enabled legal system
For the legal system to function effectively, the common man must share a social bond with it, as well as trust it. Regional languages play a major role in the legal system for ease of justice. When the law can be easily comprehended by a common man, there is an exemplary impact on the entire system.
While addressing the inaugural session of the All India conference of law ministers and law secretaries, our prime minister, Shri Narendra Modi pointed out the importance of introducing regional languages into the Indian legal system. Our PM addressed the importance of Indian law and law education being available in the regional languages. He also emphasized the need for digital case libraries in the high court and supreme court to be language localized.
As the e-court project of the Indian government steps into its third phase, a few languages such as Marathi, and Hindi are made available in the e-court portal for the benefit of litigants and advocates. However, in a country like India where there are multiple regional languages, this e-court initiative can be successful only when all the 22 official languages will be integrated into this portal without losing the syntax of law and keeping up the correct word choices.
Earlier this year, the central government made plans to introduce law education in local languages and the University Grants Commission has already started discussions with law colleges. This will truly benefit the students who finished their secondary education in regional languages. However, this also points out the importance of language localization in the legal education curriculum. In March 2022 the Bar Council of India and the University Grants Commission suggested the implementation of legal education in 12 regional languages.
Trends in the Legal services market in 2022
Over 50% of Indian law firms have a dedicated website with blogs and newsletters, according to a report on the digital presence of the Indian legal fraternity. Unfortunately, these websites are only available in the English language. The legal profession is intense and every documentation used in a case demands the right choice of words and syntax in law. As the government introduces local languages into the legal system, it is imperative that legal firms and professionals include regional languages in their services too. The legal firms should have the capability of drafting the case documents in local languages or translating English documents to local languages without losing the syntax.
A recent survey found that 59% of legal clients expect their lawyers to be available outside of business hours. Chatbots have become a popular choice for many legal firms to automate their day-to-day work. These bots can field initial questions from a new client who is approaching legal firms and provide customer support for the clients outside of business hours. Due to the upcoming changes in the Indian legal system, it would be beneficial to both litigants and lawyers to have these chatbots’ languages localized.
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