This article has been written by Nikita Mukati pursuing a Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from LawSikho.

This article has been edited  and published by Shashwat Kaushik.


Covid-19 lockdown was a very tough time for the whole world. All sectors and all classes were greatly affected, and so was the judiciary. Where access to courts was not possible. The judiciary is one of the pillars of government and the working of courts are very essential for the proper functioning of government. With a view to the proper functioning of courts and the timely delivery of justice, the Hon’ble Supreme Court exercised its plenary jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution and directed courts to opt for e-courts and virtual courts for the delivery of justice to all. This direction resulted in a blessing for the entire judicial system, which has now taken an entirely different form. Access to justice is now made easier, Our judiciary is now adopting new technologies to ensure that all persons can get justice without unnecessary delay or expenditure. Recently, the Honourable Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, directed all the high courts to allow lawyers to access virtual hearings throughout the court proceedings. Access must not be limited to their cases only, this will help many lawyers and interns learn a lot and gain experience while not visiting courts physically.

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What is a virtual court

Virtual courts are a concept brought about by the Indian judicial system for the trial and adjudication of petty offences currently under the e-courts project. Virtual court eliminates the presence of litigants and advocates in court to save time and money. It has wider jurisdiction than the physical courts and practices its jurisdiction throughout the state. Currently, only cases related to petty offences for which summonses can be issued under Section 206 of the CrPC and cases of traffic challans under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988t are being adjudicated through these courts. In these courts, there is no need for judges to be present in the court building, Virtual court enables judges to adjudicate cases 24*7. Currently, there are 25 courts in 20 states and union territories. Virtual courts also provide the facility of filing a complaint online without filing it physically, which is also cost-effective and environmentally friendly. It also enables one to pay court fees and fines online. These courts have reduced the burden of the judiciary a lot. More measures are being taken every now and then by our Ministry of Law and Justice and the judicial system to bring the latest technological developments to the judiciary.

Transition into virtual courts

As part of the eGovernance Plan, virtual courts were implemented through the concept of E-courts which is based on the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary-2005. It was implemented in three phases, The first phase(2011-2015) enabled VC in 347 jails and 493 courts and computerised 14,249 district and subordinate courts. The second phase(2015-2023) enabled VC in 1272 jails and 3240 courts and computerised 18,735 district and subordinate courts. It also connected 99.4% of courts through WAN. Live streaming started in the Supreme Court and High Courts. It also started a judgement search and a portal for providing copies of judgements and orders free of charge. Phase Three (2023) digitised all court records. It implemented AI-based “smart courts” for automatic translation and transcribing. It also expanded the scope of virtual courts.

As access to justice was not possible in the tough times of the pandemic, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance in Re: Cognizance For Extension Of Limitation for the difficulties faced by people across the country to file their suit/appeal/applications within limitation, and excluded the limitation time from the period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021. The Hon’ble Supreme Court also directed a virtual hearing of all important matters during the pandemic. The first virtual court started at Tis Hazari Court in Delhi on July 26, 2019, followed by Punjab and Haryana High Courts.

Need for virtual courts

The main principle behind the need for virtual courts is the pandemic, which changed the system from a physical court that was time-consuming to a virtual and time-saving. There are many more principles behind the need for virtual courts, such as the need for speedy trial, which is then guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution through Hussainara Khatoon and Ors. vs. The State of Bihar (1978). In this case, the Court laid down several principles that are essential for ensuring speedy trials.

  1. Timely disposal of cases: The Court held that the state has a constitutional obligation to ensure that cases are disposed of within a reasonable time.
  2. Speedy investigation: The Court also held that the investigation of cases should be conducted in a speedy and efficient manner.
  3. Adequate judicial infrastructure: The Court emphasised the need for adequate judicial infrastructure, such as sufficient number of courts and judges, to ensure speedy trials.
  4. Virtual courts: The Court recognised the potential of virtual courts in expediting the trial process. Virtual courts allow for remote hearings and proceedings, reducing the need for physical presence of the parties and witnesses in court.
  5. Simplified procedures: The Court also called for simplified procedures and the use of technology to streamline the trial process.

The Hussainara Khatoon judgement has had a significant impact on the Indian criminal justice system. It has led to a number of reforms aimed at ensuring speedy trials. For example, the government has established fast-track courts to deal with cases expeditiously.

The use of virtual courts has also been explored in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual courts have the potential to make the trial process more efficient and accessible, especially for cases involving witnesses or defendants who are located in remote areas.

The right to a speedy trial is an important safeguard against arbitrary detention and prolonged pretrial detention. It is also essential for ensuring the fairness of the trial process.

The Hussainara Khatoon judgement has played a crucial role in upholding the right to a speedy trial in India. It has set forth a clear framework for ensuring that cases are disposed of within a reasonable time. Another principle is the principle of open court, which is provided under Section 327 of the CrPC, Section 153B of CPC and many other acts and is also widely discussed by the constitutional bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar Ors vs. State of Maharashtra Anr. (1966). Virtual courts provide open court hearings where all parties and witnesses can attend the court hearing at the same time from the place of their convenience without spending a lot of money and time. Currently, only cases of petty offences where summons can be issued under Section 206 of the CrPC and other traffic challan cases under the Motor Vehicle Act of 1988 are tried by virtual courts. Another principle behind this is the disposition of pending cases. Currently, over 3.76 crore cases have been handled by 25 virtual courts and approximately 455.12 crore fines have been realised till 30/09/2023 in more than 43 lakh cases. These figures demonstrate the significant impact that virtual courts have had in addressing pending cases and generating revenue for the government.

The success of virtual courts in India has prompted discussions about their potential for expansion. Some experts believe that virtual courts could be used for a wider range of cases, including civil disputes and even criminal trials. However, concerns have also been raised regarding the potential implications for the right to a fair trial, particularly in cases involving complex legal issues or the need for witness testimony.

As the Indian judicial system continues to adapt to the changing landscape, the role of virtual courts is likely to evolve. It is imperative that a balanced approach is taken, ensuring that the benefits of virtual courts are harnessed while safeguarding the fundamental principles of justice and the rights of all parties involved.

Advantages of virtual courts

  • Virtual courts have proven to be the best decision made in the pandemic, which has given many benefits to parties, advocates, judges and the government.
  • Virtual courts make easy access to justice for all, as these courts are cost-effective which saves the cost of travel and other expenses for parties. These courts saved huge expenses on establishing court buildings, infrastructure, security, staff and maintaining court records.
  • These courts work 24*7, which reduces the burden of pending cases in the judiciary and provides faster delivery of justice to all.
  • Footfall in courtrooms is reduced, and there is no need for parties to be present physically in the courtroom. Filing the complaint online and paying court fees through an online portal made parties file their pleadings in limitation, as they don’t have to travel to court again and again for petty matters.
  • Testimony of witnesses, including children, women, and victims, is now less traumatic, which ultimately provides effective delivery of justice.
  • Certain tribunals and certain appeals don’t require the attendance of parties physically; thus, virtual courts make it easy for courts to adjudicate matters easily, even if they require the presence of parties.
  • Faster delivery of justice has reduced the burden of pending cases and also reduced the burden of maintaining court records.
  • The judicial system has now become more transparent as the status of cases is updated online and live streaming of cases is accessible from any place.
  • Virtual courts also enable real-time case adjudication and data sharing with other courts, which saves time for courts to adjudicate matters easily and effectively.

Challenges of virtual courts

As we have seen, these courts have made a significant change in the system, but there are certain difficulties and challenges faced by these courts that are to be addressed.

  • Virtual courts need good internet speed, and proper broadband connectivity, many district courts lack good broadband connectivity. It hinders a fair trial if the interruption is caused by a lack of proper connectivity.
  • It is also noticed in various cases that many technical interruptions cause poor connectivity, echoes and other disruptions. Which disturbs the entire adjudication procedure.
  • There is a lack of training for judges and advocates to understand the software used for virtual courts.
  • Implementing virtual courts and e-courts is a big challenge for the government, because it requires a lot of monetary funding and highly advanced software to protect the data of courts from hacking and cyber-attacks.
  • Maintaining data security and privacy of citizens is also an issue that must be primarily protected while implementing virtual courts while maintaining the balance between the right to privacy and the right to information at the same time.
  • Maintaining e-records of cases is also a challenge, as the staff of all courts is not well versed in new technologies. There is a great need for training and teaching the court staff all about e-courts and virtual court technology.

Virtual courts vs. physical courts

Virtual courts, also known as online courts or e-courts, are legal proceedings conducted remotely through the internet or other electronic means, rather than in a physical courtroom. Physical courts are traditional courtrooms where legal proceedings take place in person, with the judge, lawyers, witnesses, and defendants present in the same room.

There are several key differences between virtual courts and physical courts.

Location: Virtual courts do not require a physical presence in a specific location. Participants can access the proceedings from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating the need for travel and reducing the costs associated with transportation and accommodation.

Technology: Virtual courts rely heavily on technology to facilitate communication and collaboration between participants. Video conferencing platforms allow for real-time interactions, while secure online portals provide access to case documents and other relevant information.

Accessibility: Virtual courts can enhance accessibility to justice for individuals who may face challenges attending physical court hearings. This includes people with disabilities, those located in remote areas, or those with limited mobility.

Efficiency: Virtual courts have the potential to streamline the legal process and improve efficiency. Automated systems can expedite tasks such as scheduling, filing, and sharing documents, reducing the time required for certain legal procedures.

Transparency: Virtual courts can increase transparency and public access to legal proceedings. Recordings of hearings and other proceedings can be made available online, allowing the public to observe and understand the legal system better.

Security: Virtual courts incorporate security measures to protect sensitive information and ensure the integrity of proceedings. Encryption and other security protocols help safeguard data and prevent unauthorised access.

However, virtual courts also have certain limitations.

Technical issues: Virtual courts rely on reliable internet connectivity and technical infrastructure. Participants may experience difficulties accessing proceedings if they have poor internet connections or lack the necessary equipment.

Lack of personal interaction: Virtual courts lack the personal interaction and nonverbal cues that are present in physical courtrooms. This can make it challenging for judges to assess witness credibility and evaluate evidence effectively.

Potential for bias: The use of algorithms and artificial intelligence in virtual courts raises concerns about potential bias and discrimination. Ensuring fairness and equal treatment of all participants is crucial in virtual court proceedings.

Digital divide: The digital divide, where certain populations have limited access to technology and the internet, can create barriers to participation in virtual courts. Efforts must be made to address this issue and ensure inclusivity.

Overall, virtual courts offer several advantages over physical courts in terms of convenience, accessibility, and efficiency. However, addressing the challenges associated with technology, security, and inclusivity is essential to ensuring the effectiveness and fairness of virtual court proceedings.

Procedure of proceedings in virtual courtrooms

In India, virtual courts have been implemented to provide remote access to judicial proceedings, particularly during challenging circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Case filing and registration:
    • Parties can file cases electronically through designated e-filing platforms or portals provided by the court.
    • Once the case is registered, a unique case number is assigned, and relevant documents are uploaded.
  2. Scheduling of hearings:
    • Virtual hearings are scheduled in advance, considering the availability of judges, parties, and witnesses.
    • Notices are sent to all parties involved, containing the date, time, and specific instructions for joining the virtual hearing.
  3. Technology setup:
    • Parties are expected to have access to a computer or mobile device with a stable internet connection.
    • Video conferencing platforms or dedicated virtual court software are used to facilitate the hearing.
    • Parties may be required to test their devices and ensure proper audio-visual capabilities.
  4. Virtual courtroom environment:
    • Virtual courtrooms replicate the traditional courtroom setting as much as possible.
    • Judges preside over the proceedings from their chambers or dedicated virtual courtrooms.
    • Parties can see and hear each other, and the proceedings are recorded for future reference.
  5. Authentication and identification of parties:
    • Parties are required to provide valid identification documents for authentication purposes.
    • Video feeds are used to visually identify and verify the presence of parties and witnesses.
  6. Presentation of arguments:
    • Lawyers and parties can present their arguments, examine witnesses, and submit evidence through the virtual conferencing platform.
    • Cross-examination of witnesses may be conducted remotely, with due consideration for the rights of all parties involved.
  7. Judicial deliberations and decisions:
    • Judges deliberate on the case based on the evidence presented and legal principles.
    • Judgements or orders are pronounced during the virtual hearing or may be reserved for a later date.
    • Copies of the judgements are made available electronically to all parties.
  8. Post-gearing processes:
    • Virtual courts provide mechanisms for parties to file post-hearing submissions or appeals electronically.
    • Further proceedings, such as appeals, may also be conducted virtually if necessary.
  9. Public access:
    • In some cases, virtual court proceedings may be open to the public for observation.
    • Access to live streams or recordings of hearings may be provided through designated platforms or websites.
  10. Security and data protection:
  • Virtual courts employ robust security measures to protect sensitive information and maintain the integrity of proceedings.
  • Data encryption, access controls, and authentication mechanisms are implemented to prevent unauthorised access or tampering.

Overall, virtual courts in India aim to provide a convenient, efficient, and secure platform for conducting judicial proceedings remotely, ensuring access to justice while prioritising the safety and well-being of all parties.


Thus, to conclude, we must accept that, in this tough time, our judiciary did not give up but got up to an entirely new system for the effective and speedy delivery of justice. Virtual courts are very useful for reducing the burdens of courts and are beneficial to all, including judges, advocates, parties, and new interns. These courts will also encourage our new generation to pursue law and give their valuable intelligence to the judicial system of the country.

These courts, if they overcome the challenges of data breaches and internet connectivity, will prove to be of great advantage to the country. Proper training for all the staff of courts and judges will add up to the entire virtual court system. Conducting various seminars for the implementation of virtual courts will also help. However, virtual courts cannot be a complete substitute for physical courts.



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