Virtual High Courts Inaugurated in 10 Odisha Dists 

Cuttack: Virtual High Courts were inaugurated by Dr. Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India in 10 districts of Odisha on Friday.

The districts are Sambalpur, Ganjam at Berhampur, Bhadrak, Kalahandi at Bhawanipatna, Khordha at Bhubaneswar, Bolangir, Koraput at Jeypore, Puri and Sundargarh at Rourkela.

The inaugural function was held in Odisha Judicial Academy where Dr. Justice S. Muralidhar, Chief Justice and the Judges of the High Court of Orissa were present.

Among others, the former Judges of the High Court, Advocates of the 10 districts, members of the High Court Bar Association, Advocate General of Odisha, Deputy Solicitor General of India for the High Court of Orissa, Judicial Officers and Government Officials attended the function. The Chief Justice of India inaugurated the Virtual High Courts through virtual mode from Delhi.

The Chief Justice of India inaugurated the Virtual High Courts through virtual mode from Delhi.

Delivering the inaugural address Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud applauded the initiative of the High Court of Orissa and said that the High Court has been a trail blazer in e-Initiatives and the movements spearheaded by it will turn into a National movement when the other High Court in the country will follow the suit. The CJI said while most of the High Courts have only one seat and few High Courts have second Benches, the High Court of Orissa will be the first High Court to be accessible from all the Districts of the State. He congratulated the Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar saying that it has been possible due to his dynamic leadership and also lauded the efforts of the IT technicians, operators and staff. The CJI said the Virtual High Court in Districts will ensure decentralization of administration of justice and ensure accessibility of the High Court to the Advocates of remote Districts. He added talent has no geographical boundaries and videoconferencing facility in the Virtual High Courts will give exposure to the legal talents of the smaller cities who often find it difficult to practise in the High Court due to lack of accessibility.

The CJI announced that a new initiative of translating its judgments into the regional languages with the use of AI tool has been adopted by the Supreme Court with the help of IIT, Madras and expressed hope that under the leadership of Dr. S. Muralidhar the High Court of Orissa would adopt translation of its judgments into Odia. The CJI also informed that the Supreme Court has launched e-Supreme Court Reports by which 35,000 judgments of the Supreme Court have been made available in the portal for use of the lawyers, Judges and litigants free of charge.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. S. Muralidhar, Chief Justice said that setting up Virtual High Courts in the Districts is a big step forward and if it succeeds, it will change the face of the judiciary. The Chief Justice said through the Virtual High Courts the High Court of Orissa will make it presence felt in the Districts and it will ultimately serve the people of Odisha.

He informed the audience about the facilities made available in the Virtual High Courts and said the Advocates even in the remote Districts will be able to file a case before the High Court, get his case heard and get the certified copies of the orders.

The Chief Justice said the Virtual High Court of the 10 Districts established in the first phase will serve the needs of the neighbouring Districts till it is set up in the remaining Districts.

Dr. Muralidhar thanked the e-Committee, Supreme Court of India for extending support in all the initiatives of the High Court.

The High Court of Orissa has undertaken a host of initiatives to adopt technology into the day-to-day processes of the justice delivery system in the State. Popularizing e-Filing and adoption of Video Conferencing in proceedings both before the High Court and the District Courts have been the foremost amongst such initiatives.

During the period of the COVID 19 pandemic, the High Court of Orissa had established VC cabins in each district so that the advocates could appear in any court, including the High Court of Orissa from any District. This has become a permanent feature in the District Courts. As far as the High Court is concerned, its system of hybrid hearing is continuing, and is welcomed by the Bar throughout Odisha.

Proposal for Virtual High Court in the Districts was placed before the Supreme Court of India on judicial side and was approved by the Supreme Court in order dated 14th December, 2022 in TP(C) No.2419 of 2019 M/s. PLR Projects Pvt. Ltd. Vrs. Mahanadi Coal Fields Ltd. and others.

Accordingly, the High Court of Orissa has now decided to take a step forward to establish dedicated Virtual High Courts in 10 of the 30 Districts in the first phase. These are at Sambalpur, Ganjam at Berhampur, Bhadrak, Kalahandi at Bhawanipatna, Khurda at Bhubaneswar, Bolangir, Koraput at Jeypore, Puri and Sundargarh at Rourkela. The choice of the first 10 virtual High Courts was dictated by the geographical location and the volume of cases filed from the Districts in the High Court.

The Virtual High Courts at Sambalpur, Bolangir, Sundergarh at Rourkela are in Western Odisha, Kalahandi at Bhawanipatna, Koraput at Jeypore and Ganjam at Berhampur in Southern Odisha, Balasore and Bhadrak in Northern Odisha, and Khurda at Bhubaneswar and Puri are in Eastern Odisha.

It is seen that of the present pending caseload of around 1.7 lakh cases in the High Court, around 72,760 cases are filed from the above ten districts, with the highest of the above ten districts being Khurda from where around 27,160 cases have been filed. The other approximate figures of filing of cases from the remaining 9 Districts are: Sambalpur (4,000), Ganjam (10,500), Bhadrak (5,300), Kalahandi (3,400), Bolangir (3,800), Koraput (3,200), Puri (8,200) and Rourkela at Sundargarh (3,278).

The districts are also chosen in a manner that will make it easy for those in the neighbouring districts within a radius of 100 km to use the facilities of the Virtual High Court in those districts for the present. For e.g., the Virtual High Court facility in Sambalpur can be accessed by those in the neighbouring districts of Bargarh, Deogarh, Jharsaguda and Angul. In the next phase, it is proposed to open more Virtual High Courts in those Districts where the volume of filing will justify it or where there is a long standing demand of the Bar for such facility.

Cuttack being the seat of the High Court, there will be no need to have an additional Virtual High Court there. The above facility will be in addition to the facility of virtual court rooms and VC cabins that are available in almost every district in Odisha.

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