Featured Article from Conferencing

Conferencing Brings Efficiency to India Divorce Court

March 13, 2017

Divorce is seldom a pleasant business, and one court in India wants to make this generally unpleasant situation at least move faster, mandating the use of conferencing systems to help speed things along. Given that that court is the Supreme Court of India, it carries quite a bit more weight.

Under normal circumstances, reports note, scheduling priority in such cases is given to the wife as a normal part of Indian court proceedings. Hearings for divorce and child-related matters—custody and maintenance in particular—are commonly held in the jurisdiction where the wife resides. That can be a serious problem for the husband in the case, and sometimes can lead to a lot of cash spent on litigation.

The case that changed the Supreme Court's mind on this came from a woman in Hyderabad, who was living there with her young daughter. As part of divorce proceedings, the Hyderabad woman had to travel to Jabalpur—about 486 miles away—in order to pursue the proceedings. The court allowed the woman to file a transfer plea, but reports note that it took about three years for the court to actually address the plea in question.

Subsequently, the court noted that it had a lot of cases like this in its backlog. Given that Delhi alone has nearly 12,000 matrimonial cases pending, and over the last two years the court has processed over 24,000, it's clear that there's a lot of backlog. Some courts have as many as 52,000 cases in backlog, while others merely have a little over 5,000.

Regardless of how deep the backlog goes, it became clear it would be better for all concerned if these cases started using technology that allowed long distances to be bridged more rapidly. Naturally, the court understood that conferencing wasn't a universally-available technology, and thus directed the use of such tools on a where-applicable basis, calling on those who could put such systems to work to do so.

It's kind of a surprise that the court had to specifically direct such a move, and rather that this wasn't a response from courts all over India seeking permission to do just this, or at least seeking guidance on how to set this up. While court proceedings are often a matter of established law and precedent, and generally not amenable to quick-changing technology, the sheer sizes of the backlogs involved should have made it clear that a technological solution to the problem was not just a desirable extra but rather a clear necessity.

Still, it doesn't really matter what should have been, as the fact is that conferencing is now a tool in the toolbox. Hopefully it will help speed some caseloads along and yield a better overall justice system.

Edited by Alicia Young