• QUESTION : What do you understand by a virtual court and discuss the challenges arising in the implementation of these court in present India, state the remedies for its solution too?  

E-court Project Of India 
According to data released by the Supreme Court in the June 2020 newsletter of the e-Committee, 3.27 crore cases are pending before Indian courts, of which 85,000 have been pending for over 30 years. 
To address the same, the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India recently released its draft vision document for Phase III of the e-Courts project. Phases I and II had dealt with digitisation of the judiciary, i.e., e-filing, tracking cases online, uploading judgments online, etc. 
 Virtual Courts is a concept aimed at eliminating the presence of litigants or lawyers in the court and adjudication of the case online.
 An e-court or Electronic Court means a location in which matters of law are adjudicated upon, in the presence of qualified Judge(s) and which has a well-developed technical infrastructure.
 The e-courts are different from the computerised courts which have been in place since the 1990s.
 The working of e-courts requires an Online environment and an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enabled infrastructure.
o This would be beneficial for both improving the court processes and rendering citizen-centric services.
o e-Courts are aimed to make legal processes easier and more user friendly.
o Litigants can view the status of their case online through various channels created for service delivery.
o Litigants can file the plaint electronically through e-Filing and also pay the Court Fees or Fine online through. 
• The E-Courts Project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005” submitted by E-Committee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.
• The E-Courts Mission Mode Project, is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts across the country.
• e-Committee is a body constituted by the Government of India in pursuance of a proposal received from Chief Justice of India to constitute an eCommittee to assist him in formulating a National policy on computerization of Indian Judiciary and advise on technological communication and management related changes.
• To provide efficient & time-bound citizen centric services delivery as detailed in eCourt Project Litigant’s Charter.
• To develop, install & implement decision support systems in courts.
• To automate the processes to provide transparency in accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
• To enhance judicial productivity, both qualitatively & quantitatively, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost effective, predictable, reliable and transparent. 
• There is commitment to the digitisation of court processes and plans to upgrade the electronic infrastructure of the judiciary and enable access to lawyers and litigants.
• Proposes an ecosystem approach to justice delivery.
• Suggests a seamless exchange of information” between various branches of the State, such as between the judiciary, the police and the prison systems through the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS).
• Data collection is combined with extensive data sharing and data storage that it becomes a cause for concern. The Supreme Court must take care not to violate the privacy standards that it set in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), especially since India does not yet have a data protection regime.
• Creation of data happens at local police stations, which have historically contributed to the criminalisation of entire communities through colonial-era laws such as the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, by labelling such communities as “habitual offenders”.
• Fear of a surveillance state.
• It is not clear that why Home Ministry needs access to court data which has absolutely no relation to criminal law.
• The e-filling process is riddled with endless complications. 
• E-Courts will also prove to be cost-intensive as setting up state of the art e-courts will require the deployment of new-age technology.
• Hacking and cybersecurity: On the top of technology, cyber-security will be a huge concern too. The government has initiated remedial steps to address this problem and formulated the Cyber Security Strategy but it is more on the side of prescribed guidelines alone. The practical and actual implementation of the same remains to be seen.
• Infrastructure: Challenges can erupt due to insufficient infrastructure and non-availability of electricity and internet connectivity in most of the Talukas/villages.
o Electricity connection is a must along with internet connectivity and computers to ensure justice reaches every section equally. 
• The project must be within the framework of fundamental rights.
• The e-Courts must move towards localisation of data, instead of centralisation.
• The e-Committee must prevent the seamless exchange of data between the branches of the state that ought to remain separate.
• Active participation of citizen should be there as when data of the courts and police stations are integrated, the link is individual citizen.
• Also, a user-friendly e-courts mechanism, which is simple and easily accessible by the common public will encourage litigants to use such facilities in India.
• The government must make dedicated efforts in the training of personnel to maintain all the e-data. These include maintaining proper records of e-file minute entries, notification, service, summons, warrants, bail orders, order copies, e-filing etc. for ready references.
• Conducting training sessions to familiarise the Judges with the e-courts framework and procedure can give a huge impetus to the successful running of e-courts.
• Creating awareness around e-courts through talks and seminars can help bring to light the facilities and the ease that e-courts can facilitate.  
Digital technology can play a huge role in the faster delivery of justice. However, the privacy and fundamental rights of citizens need to be protected as the technology is only a means, not an end in itself.

QUESTION : South Asian countries share the common problem of poor public healthcare infrastructure, which increases their vulnerability to the pandemic but corona pandemic also offers an opportunity to improve the shortcoming in the health infrastructure and cooperation among the SAARC countries. Comment.” 

Health Care  System Of South Asia 
On May 18 this year, India recorded 4,529 deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily death toll recorded in the world after the United States in January saw 4,468 deaths. 
Several things are to blame for such high deaths due to – 
• super spreader events 
• Fragile health infrastructure neglected for decades 
• Citizens not following health protocols  
• Logistical mismanagement 
As India combats the pandemic, its neighbours are experiencing spillover from the menacing second wave. 
• Sri Lanka added as many as 78,218 cases in May.
• Pakistan crossed over 200 daily deaths in April, its highest since the pandemic started.
• Bangladesh’s situation is precarious, given the recent detection of the highly contagious Delta variant. 
• Bhutan is the only exception, with only one death and 1,724 cases so far. The country’s success stems from a well-funded and prepared public health system with stringent measures, responsible citizenship, and an accountable government 
• India’s health expenditure is little over 1% of India’s GDP. Public healthcare sector has been operating at a pitiful 0.08 doctors per 1,000 people (WHO Standard is 1 per 1,000)
• India has only half a bed available for every 1,000 people. Bangladesh and Pakistan fare no better, with a bed to patient ratio of 0.8 and 0.6, respectively.
• While ideally, out-of-pocket expenditure should not surpass 15% to 20% of the total health expenditure, for India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, this figure stands at an appalling 62.67%, 73.87% and 56.24%, respectively.
• While India has the world’s third-largest military expenditure, its health budget is the fourth-lowest. 
• In Pakistan, even amidst the pandemic, the defence budget was increased by 12% in the fiscal year 2020-21, to $7.85 billion, while the spending on health remained around $151 million.
Major public sector investments by the ‘big three’ of South Asia, i.e., India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, are towards infrastructure and defence, with health taking a backseat. 
• South Asian countries have invested very little in health.
• This is reflected in our abysmally low health parameters.
• It is interesting that Britain, which formulated our health policies before independence, went on to form one of the world’s strongest public health systems, the National Health Service.
• Whereas its South Asian colonies chose to stray from that path.
• This resulted in a dysfunctional public healthcare 
• Governments have also relinquished what ought to have been their primary duty, of health care provision, to the private sector.
• Having become an industry, the focus of healthcare in the private sector is on profit rather than on people’s needs.
• High treatment costs in private sector: Whilst privatisation has brought in advanced technology and expertise, the high costs of treatment in the private sector have resulted in impoverishment as most of the population has no insurance or third-party coverage, and pays out of pocket.
• The sector has also been poorly regulated. 
• Hunger, malnutrition, poor sanitation and large-scale migration are features of this region.
• Existinlg infectious diseases like TB, HIV and malaria have been worsened by emerging ones like dengue, chikungunya, healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance.
• The region is also an epicentre of an epidemic of lifestyle diseases.
• Conflicts and expenditure on defence: Constant internal and external conflicts in South Asia not only consume a large portion of national budgets but also divert the attention of the public and policymakers from healthcare needs.
• Defence budgets take the largest share of national budgets, and obviously adversely impact social sector spending.
• Underfunded public health is going to hinder region’s capacity to fight COVID-19.
• The central role of religion: Religion continues to occupy a central space in the society and politics of the region.
• Though it offers succour to many, religious dogma can impact health policy and health-seeking behaviour.
• The refusal of devotees across Pakistan to avoid religious congregations during Ramadan despite the government’s orders has significantly fed the community spread of the virus 
• South Asia can take lessons in pragmatic healthcare policy from Southeast Asia, which has prioritised investments in healthcare systems while broadening equitable access through universal health coverage schemes.
• Given the high chances of another wave or even the impending crisis of climate change, stopgap measures ought to be replaced by a well-thought-out vision and political commitment for long-term healing.
• The SAARC heads of state have already offered help to one another.
• A regional strategy has a better chance of controlling the pandemic than isolated national-level efforts.
• The pooling of resources and sharing data may not only help flatten the curve but perhaps even develop into longer-term efforts towards effective treatment.
• It is being speculated that our populations are behaving differently; that the BCG vaccine may be a protective influence.
• Joint research into such areas can be a unifying point for SAARC.
It is in our collective interest to look at health security and not just national security. By the accident of their birth, South Asians have endured a lot. They merit better.

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