2927 Court complexes across country have been connected by a high-speed Wide Area Network (WAN) as against target of 2992 under e-Courts Project

By SRELJ

As many as 2927 Court complexes across India have been connected so far by a high-speed Wide Area Network (WAN) under e-Courts Project. It has led to completion of 97.86 % sites out of 2992 sites conceived to be connected with high speed WAN under the project. Department of Justice (DoJ) along with BSNL is working relentlessly on connecting the remaining sites. Under e-Courts Project, one of the largest digital networks of the world was conceived by Department of Justice along with the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India to connect the 2992 court complexes located all over India by a high-speed Wide Area Network (WAN) via different modes of connectivity such as Optical Fiber Cable (OFC), Radio Frequency (RF), Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) etc. In May 2018 the mandate of providing Managed MPLS VPN services to all these sites was entrusted to the BSNL, which has pan India presence with latest state-of-the-art technology and high-end telecom infrastructure and transmission equipment. The BSNL also has presence at all corners of India, including NE region, J&K, Uttarakhand, A&N Islands, etc.

Many courts under the e-Courts project are located in far flung areas where terrestrial cable cannot be used for providing connectivity. Such areas are termed as Technically Not Feasible (TNF) and in DoJ’sendeavor to bridge the digital divide; connectivity is being established at TNF sites using alternative means like RF, VSAT etc.  With persistent deliberations, meetings and coordination with different stakeholders including BSNL and the Courts, the Department has been able to reduce the total TNF sites from 58 in 2019 to 14 in 2020, thus leading to saving of public money as the cost of providing connectivity through alternative means like VSAT is much higher. Department of Justice has also decided to use the newly inaugurated submarine (under sea) cable for providing connectivity to 5 TNF sites in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In the COVID-19 pandemic scenario importance of connectivity becomes greater as suddenly courts are under huge pressure for on-line hearing of cases. The DoJ has therefore constituted a high powered committee with representatives from the BSNL, NIC, e-Committee etc to review the bandwidth requirement in the changed scenario. The Department of Justice, along with the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India has taken a major leap towards digital transformation and its success in leveraging digital technologies for transforming the Judiciary and providing access to justice to ordinary citizens is being appreciated at all levels.

As part of National e-Governance Plan, e-Courts Project is an Integrated Mission Mode Project under implementation since 2007 for the ICT development of the Indian Judiciary based on the ‘National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in Indian Judiciary’.

The Government approved the computerization of 14,249 district & subordinate Courts under the e-Courts Phase I project ( 2007-2015).  The objective of the e-Courts project is to provide designated services to litigants, lawyers and the judiciary by universal computerization of district and subordinate courts in the country by leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improved justice delivery. Envisaging further ICT enhancement through universal computerization of all the courts, the Phase II of the project was approved by the Cabinet in July 2015 with a cost of Rs 1670 crore under which 16,845 courts have been computerized.

27 E-Lok Adalats organized in 15 States leading to disposal of 2.51 lakh cases from June to October,2020

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By SRELJ Bureau

 In the period of turbulence caused by the pandemic, Legal Services Authorities creatively adapted to the new normal and moved Lok Adalat to the virtual platform. From June, 2020 to October 2020, 27 E-Lok Adalats have been organized in 15 States wherein 4.83 lakh cases were taken up and 2.51 lakh cases disposed of resulting in settlement of Rs 1409 cr.  Further, during November 2020, E-Lok Adalats have been organized in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Telangana so far wherein 16,651 cases were taken up and 12,686 disposed of resulting in settlement of Rs 107.4 cr.

The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way in which the Legal Services Institutions function. To facilitate access to justice amidst the constraints placed by Covid-19 and various public health guidelines, the Legal Services Authorities have ingeniously integrated technology into its conventional methods of justice delivery. Online Lok Adalat popularly known as E -Lok Adalat is one such innovation of Legal Services Institutions where technology has been used to its maximum advantage and has become a platform to deliver justice at the doorstep of people.  E- Lok Adalats are also cost effective as it eliminates the need for organisational expenses.

Organised by Legal Services Authorities, Lok Adalats (State as well as National) are an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mode wherein pre-litigation and pending cases in the courts are disposed on the basis of amicable settlement without any expense on the part of litigants. It is free of cost and expeditious method of bringing litigating parties on the same side and saving them from the rigours of trial under adversarial system of adjudication which is generally perceived to be time consuming, complex and costly. Lok Adalats are also instrumental in reducing the burden on arrears of the court disposal of long pending litigation between the parties.

Income Tax relief for Real-estate Developers and Home Buyers

By SRELJ Bureau

As part of the AatmaNirbhar Bharat Package 3.0 as announced by Hon’ble Finance Minister on 12th November, 2020, certain income tax relief measures were brought in for real-estate developers and home buyers.

Up to 2018, section 43CA of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (‘the Act’) provided for deeming of the stamp duty value (circle rate) as sale consideration for transfer of real-estate inventory in the case the circle rate exceeded the declared consideration. Consequentially, stamp duty value was deemed as purchase consideration in case of buyer under section 56(2)(x) of the Act.

In order to provide relief to real estate developers and buyers, the Finance Act, 2018, provided a safe harbour of 5%. Accordingly, these deeming provisions triggered only where the difference between the sale/purchase consideration and the circle rate was more than 5%. In order to provide further relief in this matter, Finance Act, 2020 increased this safe harbour from 5% to 10%. Therefore, currently, the circle rate is deemed to be the sale/purchase consideration for real estate developers and buyers only where the variation between the agreement value and the circle rate is more than 10%.

In order to boost demand in the real-estate sector and to enable the real-estate developers to liquidate their unsold inventory at a rate substantially lower than the circle rate and giving benefit to the home buyers, it has been decided to further increase the safe harbour from 10% to 20% under section 43CA of the Act for the period from 12th November, 2020 to 30th June, 2021 in respect of only primary sale of residential units of value up to Rs. 2 crore. Consequential relief by increasing the safe harbour from 10% to 20% shall also be allowed to buyers of these residential units under section 56(2)(x) of the Act for the said period. Therefore, for these transactions, circle rate shall be deemed as sale/purchase consideration only if the variation between the agreement value and the circle rate is more than 20%.

Legislative amendments in this regard shall be proposed in due course.

Vice President expresses concern over growing pendency of cases at all levels of judiciary

By SRELJ Bureau

The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today expressed concern over the mounting pendency of cases from the Supreme Court to the lower courts and urged the government and the judiciary to ensure faster justice by addressing the issue.

Addressing through virtual mode the Platinum Jubilee meet of Dr B.R. Ambedkar College of Law, Andhra University on the occasion of its 76th Foundation Day, he underscored the need to make  delivery of justice speedier and affordable. Citing adjournment of cases over long periods, he observed that justice was becoming costly and referred to the well-known proverb “justice denied is justice delayed”.

The Vice President said that Public Interest Litigations (PILs) should not become private interest litigations for personal, pecuniary and political interests.  There was nothing wrong if it was for a larger public cause, he stressed.

Asking the law students to be the voice of the voiceless and to use their legal knowledge to empower the marginalized people, he advised them to take up legal aid for the poor as a commitment. He also told the budding lawyers to nurture professionalism and ethical conduct, while being fearless and fair when it comes to discharging their duties. “Fight injustice wherever it exists and in whichever manner it is perpetuated”, he added.

Highlighting the need to avoid ambiguity while drafting laws, the Vice President said laws should be simple and uncomplicated. The focus should not only be on the letter but also on the spirit of and the intent behind our laws. “The intent and purpose of the law must be very clear”, he added.

Observing that lawyers are capable of bringing about great social transformation, the Vice President said that as a society evolves, so must its laws. “We must constantly introspect and scrutinize our laws from the prism of justice, fairness, equity, compassion and humanity and must continually reform and update our laws, rules and regulations”, he said.

Shri Naidu said that laws which do not find a place in a progressive society must be repealed without prejudice and without delay, while modifying others to suit the times.

Calling for an all-round effort to improve our justice system, the Vice President spoke of the need to continually improve our legal infrastructure and access to justice, especially for the common man. Expressing concern that a vast majority of our laws and regulations were still illegible to the ordinary citizen, he called for the expansion of legal literacy.

Referring to the New Education Policy, he stressed the need to impart basic primary and upper primary education in mother tongue. “I go a step further, in due course of time, we must strive hard to see that all our systems and public life mother tongue must be used, practiced and propagated. Whether it is education, whether it is governance or whether it is judiciary, people must be able to speak, argue and write in their mother tongue so that they are able to express freely”.

Quoting Gandhi Ji, who had said “the ancient ideal of Ramarajya is undoubtedly one of true democracy in which the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure”, the Vice President said “ the foundation of Ramarajya is truth and justice and that is what we aspire for when we strengthen various institutions of democratic governance, including the judiciary”.

He asked young students to look upon legal profession as a mission and always be ready to be of service to the most powerless and helpless of our citizens.

Advising students to remain life-long learners and understand the nuances of our democratic system and the functioning of its institutions and processes, Shri Naidu stressed the need to make policies that are not only legally sound but also morally righteous and socially just.

Paying rich tributes to the founder of the College, Dr C.R. Reddy, he recalled his student days and said that his time at the college laid strong foundations to his political and public life.

Justice T. Rajani and Justice, Battu Devanand, Hon’ble Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Prof. P.V.G.D. Prasada Reddy, Vice Chancellor, Andhra University, Prof. S. Sumitra, Principal, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar College of Law, Prof. D.S. Prakasa Rao, Dean, Faculty of Law, Andhra University, Prof.K.Gupteswar , Founder Principal, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar College of Law, Dr.P.S.Rao, Special Adviser, Attorney-General Office, State of Qatar and others were present on the occasion.

The following is the full text of the speech:

I am delighted to join all of you in this Platinum Jubilee meeting today on the auspicious occasion of the 76th Foundation Day of Dr B.R. Ambedkar College of Law, Andhra University. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that I myself am a proud alumnus of this great temple of learning.

The Law College was established in Andhra University in 1945 in order to meet a long felt need for a College of Law in this part of the country, which was then a part of the province of Madras.

On this momentous occasion of celebrating Platinum Jubilee, we must remember with gratitude the great visionary, Dr. C.R. Reddy, the founder Vice Chancellor of Andhra University, whose farsightedness led to the establishment of this institution of great stature. Dr.Cattamanchy Ramalinga Reddy, in consultation with Jurists like Sri Lionel Leach, Chief Justice of Madras, Sri P.V.Rajamannar, the then Advocate General of Madras, Sri V. Govindarajachari, Advocate and a few others, laid the foundations of this college.

This College began its illustrious journey in 1945 and was inaugurated by the legendary Judge of the Madras High Court, Sri Rajamannar. This college, the then department of law, was originally located in Machilipatnam and was relocated in 1949 to Waltair, which is the present Visakhapatnam. Prof. S. Venkataraman was the first Head of the Department of Law & Professor of Law. It became independent from being part of Arts, Commerce and Law wing of Andhra University and was renamed as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar College of Law. This college was one of the first institutions to introduce semester system in 1975, much before the Bar Council of India has envisaged it. It is also one of the few institutions offering international law as a field of specialization in post graduation since long time.

Dr. C R Reddy was an ardent believer in promoting academic and scholarly study of law. He visualized this institution as a centre for comparative and interdisciplinary study of Law, which would mould outstanding practitioners and teachers of law.

I pay my humble tributes to the great soul today.

As a matter-of-fact, I spent some of the most significant and memorable years of my life as a student leader and a prominent personality of Jai Andhra movement in Visakhapatnam. I was initially imprisoned in Visakhapatnam and later shifted to Mushirabad Jail in Hyderabad during the infamous Emergency. In all, I was in prison for about one-and-half years. My only fault was that as a student leader, I had invited Shri Jayaprakash Narayan to address a public meeting at Visakhapatnam and that was used as a pretext by the then government to send me to jail along with several other opposition leaders at that time.

I feel fortunate to have studied in this college. My stay in this college laid a strong foundation for political and public life. I always cherish my long association with the beautiful city of Visakhapatnam and its people. I paid my reverential respect in a facebook post, to all my gurus including the professors who taught us different subjects in the law college- Shri B S Murtygaru, Shri Gopalakrishna Sastry garu, Shri Gupteswargaru, Shri Laxmana Rao garu, Shri Ramachandra Rao garu; Shri Appalanaidugaru, Shri Santosh garu, Shri Jaganmohangaru, Shri Padmanabhamgaru, Shri Krishna Murtygaru.

It is heartening to note that since its inception, the college had outstanding jurists and Legal Luminaries as the Members of the Faculty.

I am happy to note that the College has been constantly endeavouring to raise the benchmarks for teaching and research to prepare the students for advanced study and research at LL.M., and Ph.D. levels and to build their careers at the Bar.

Platinum Jubilee is a major milestone for any institution. It is an occasion not only to list out the achievements, but also to introspect and chalk out a roadmap for the future. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of you on this occasion.

My dear sisters and brothers,

It is also appropriate that this college has been named after one of the most eminent jurists India has ever seen, the chief architect of the Constitution of India, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.

Dr Ambedkar was a multi-faceted genius—a visionary statesman, philosopher, towering intellectual, eminent jurist, economist, writer, social reformer and a humanist par excellence. The nation will be ever grateful to the iconic leader for his stellar contribution in drafting the Constitution and for his pioneering role in guiding the nation at a critical juncture.

Dr Ambedkar left an indelible imprint on the sands of time and his thoughts are relevant for all times. Indeed, he was the messiah of the oppressed and all through his life, he strove to dismantle the caste barriers and ensure equality for all people.

He strongly believed in gender equality and emancipation of women through education. He famously said: “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.”

As students of law, I ask each and every one of you to understand the life and work of Dr Ambedkar and to draw inspiration from it so that you may serve this nation to the best of your ability.

My dear young friends,

You have the good fortune of being enlightened in the portals of a premier educational institution. As inheritors of the legacy of Dr Ambedkar and as budding lawyers, each one of you must always strive to protect the constitution. Please remember that several eminent legal luminaries played a crucial role in laying strong foundations for our democratic republic. The tallest leaders of our freedom struggle, from Mahatma Gandhi to Bal Gangadhar Tilak to C. Rajagopalachari, Lala Lajpat Rai and TanguturiPrakasamPantulu were lawyers.

I have always felt that the leadership of lawyers played a major role in the evolution of our independence struggle where we sought freedom, basic rights and democracy in a peaceful and non-violent manner using reasoned argument and moral courage which are traits of excellent lawyers. We all are also aware of the decisive role played by lawyers in drafting our constitution.

As advocates and jurists of tomorrow, you have an equally important role to play in shaping the future of this country.

Having been a student of law myself, I would like to dwell on the significance of legal education in nation building. As a society and nation governed by the rule of law, we must focus not only on the letter but also on the spirit of and the intent behind our laws.

There should not be any room for ambiguity while drafting laws. They should be simple and uncomplicated. Any ambiguity can lead to the possibility of misinterpretation and misuse and that should be totally avoided.

Although many youngsters are joining law courses and becoming lawyers, there continues to be manpower shortage. We need to study the reasons for the same and take remedial steps. At the same time, it should be remembered that quality is more important than quantity. I feel that the judiciary should also focus on this issue.

Over the years, India has produced many outstanding and eminent jurists like V R Krishna Iyer, Nani Palkhivala, Fali S. Nariman, Soli Sorabjee, Harish Salve, P. B. Gajendragadkar, KokaSubba Rao, K S Hedge and Hans Raj Khanna, who did not budge or bend during the Emergency to safeguard the fundamental rights of the people.

Lawyers are capable of bringing about great social transformation. As society evolves, so must our laws. We must constantly introspect and scrutinize our laws from the prism of justice, fairness, equity, compassion and humanity and must continually reform and update our laws, rules and regulations. Laws which do not find a place in the progressive society must be repealed without prejudice and without delay, while modifying others to suit the times.

In the same spirit, there must be an unrelenting quest to improve our justice system. We must continually improve our legal infrastructure and access to justice, especially for the common man. A vast majority of our laws and regulations are still illegible to the ordinary citizen. Here comes the importance of expanding the reach of legal literacy and the need to simplify our laws and rules. I appreciate the government for scrapping several redundant and obsolete laws.

It is not sufficient to take justice to the people. We must also ensure that the intricacies of the legal system are understood by them in the languages they speak and understand.

There is also a need to make the delivery of justice speedier and affordable. The legal profession must continue to address this issue collectively.

My dear young friends,

As students of this prestigious university, you must constantly endeavour to find ways in which you can give back to the society and the country. You must look upon legal profession as a mission and must be always ready to be of service to the most powerless and helpless of our citizens. Be the voice of the voiceless. Use your legal knowledge and acumen to empower them and make their lives better.

I call upon each and every one of the students joining us today to take up legal aid for the poor as a commitment. As lawyers and jurists of the future, always try to be responsive. Nurture professionalism and ethical conduct, while being fearless and fair when it comes to discharging your duty. Fight injustice wherever it exists and in whichever manner it is perpetuated.

India undoubtedly has one of the best constitutions in the world. It places at its centre the highest of human values and has justice, liberty and equality as its cornerstones. It seeks to banish the social evils such as gender inequality, discrimination, communalism and casteism and endeavours to provide equality and equal protection of laws to all citizens. It was Dr Ambedkar who once remarked that “Constitution is not a mere lawyers’ document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is always the spirit of Age.”

Dear youngsters, always remain life-long students. Understand the nuances of our democratic system and the functioning of its institutions and processes. Help policy makers in making policies that are not only legally sound but also morally righteous and socially just. A democracy cannot be healthy without informed participation. Inform yourself and inform others. Help the nation create better citizens who are able to access all the opportunities that our country offers.

I am sure that as lawyers of the future, you will always strive for positive social change and take up the mantle of leadership in our quest to build a New India.

Before I conclude, I would like to recollect the words of Gandhi Ji, who had said, “Whether Rama of my imagination ever lived or not on this earth, the ancient ideal of Ramarajya is undoubtedly one of true democracy in which the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure. Even the dog is described by the poet to have received justice under Ramarajya.” The foundation of Ramarajya is truth and Justice and that is what we aspire for when we strengthen various institutions of democratic governance including Judiciary.

Tomorrow, we are going to witness a historic event at Ayodhya. An event that connects most of us to our illustrious cultural heritage. An event that makes us recollect Ramayana, the timeless epic written at least two thousand years ago, that has become a part of our collective consciousness.

It is indeed a moment of spontaneous celebration because we are bringing the glory of the past alive and enshrining the values we cherish.

Rama is an embodiment of Indian culture. He is the ideal King, an ideal human being. He combines in himself some of the finest qualities a human being can aspire to imbibe.

On this auspicious occasion, as we start rebuilding the ancient temple on 5th August, 2020 at Ayodhya for Rama and create a magnificent structure as desired by people, it would be good to understand and spread the universal message of Ramayana, the remarkable Indian epic, and enrich our lives based on its rich foundational values.

Once again, let me congratulate all of you on the 76th Foundation day of Dr B.R. Ambedkar College of Law, Andhra University. May this institution keep moulding lawyers of exceptional calibre and unblemished character and scale greater heights in the time to come.

I wish each and every one of you the very best in your future endeavours.

Thank You!

Jai Hind!

Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Legal System

By Adv Siddhant Mehta

 

What is AI?

From Siri, Alexa and other breakthrough softwares to self-driving cars, Artificial intelligence has evolved swiftly over the years. The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) as we know it, was devised in the year 1956 by an American computer scientist called John McCarthy as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines

AI could also be defined as “cognitive technologies. It is known to have many branches, with significant connections and commonalities among them. The most important fields are currently machine learning including deep learning and predictive analytics, natural language processing (NLP), comprising of translations, classification & clustering and information extraction.

Some AI programs train themselves, through trial and error whereas others need to be trained by humans feeding them data. At this point in advancement, researchers say it is good at finding items that meet human-defined criteria and detecting patterns in statistical information.

India on AI

AI is an emergent focus area of strategy development in India. The country’s provincial influence, expanding AI industry, and striving governmental initiatives around AI makes it an important influence to consider. Even as prevailing policy dealings anticipate the rapid advancement of AI for economic evolution and social good, a predominant inclination persists in India, and several other jurisdictions: the boundaries and perils of data-driven pronouncements still feature as retrospective contemplations for development and positioning of AI applications.

Government’s slant: The Government of India recognizes the latent market disruption that can result from AI and machine learning and has been keen on establishing a policy framework in order to exploit the constructive impact. Similarly, the interim budget for 2019 projected an allocation of upto US$ 57.4 million in order to fund the set up of a National Centre on AI, a national AI portal and 20 institutes of eminence for research and innovation.  Subsequently, in June 2018, “NITI Aayog”, the government’s strategy think tank published a discussion paper on the “National Strategy for AI” which propagates AI’s outreach to general public.  Both of these documents analyze the state of AI in India, recommend steps required for the development and utilization of AI, such as setting up dedicated inter-ministerial funds for AI-related activities, creating digital data banks, marketplaces and exchanges, and global participation in developing standards for AI systems.

At the same time, the government also proposed the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, which provides businesses with access to a wide variety of scientific and technical data collected by the state.

Defence schemes: The Ministry of Defence authorized a US$ 10.6 million project for the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, a laboratory under the government’s Defence Research and Development Organization, for evolving signal intelligence solutions for improving the intelligence and analytical capabilities of the armed forces.

Data protection & privacy: The Supreme Court in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) & Anr. v. Union of India recognized the right to privacy being inclusive of informational privacy as a constitutionally protected fundamental right enforceable against the state. The Apex Court stressed the necessity for thorough data protection regulations.  Consequently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology went ahead and published the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. This Bill is significantly influenced by the European Union General Data Protection Regulation, proposing the establishment of a Data Protection Authority, stricter principles, and conditions and compliance requirements for processing personal data.  It also provides for stringent penalties and enforces personal accountability on corporate officers for breaches.

The position of AI in public sector decision making has also been progressively growing across sectors such as judicial decision making, education, transportation and healthcare. The use of automated processing in electronic governance under the Digital India mission, domestic law enforcement agencies monitoring social media content and educational schemes is being discussed and gradually implemented. Much like the potential application of AI across sub-sectors, the nature of governing issues are also varied.

In a way forward in these apocalyptic times, the Supreme Court has digitized its records and procedure for the time being, which indeed will be a benchmark act as a precedent in the coming years.

Impact on the Legal fraternity

AI has transformed every career front and the legal stream is no exception. Historically speaking, law firms have been known to be notoriously sluggish in adapting to new technologies, wherein augmenting efficiency is often seen as contrary to the economic goal of amplifying billable hours. However, with the changing times law firms across the globe are trying to understand and use new technologies. According to major publication houses, “the vast majority of the UK and US’s top 100 law firms are either using artificial intelligence or assessing the technology.”

Firms having already approved of AI systems include the likes of Allen & Overy, Latham & Watkins, Baker & McKenzie, Slaughter & May, Singapore’s Dentons Rodyk & Davidson. Amongst the many, in 2017, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas became the first Indian law firm to execute an agreement with Kira Systems, a Canada-based machine learning software provider, to improve the efficiency, accuracy and speed of the firm’s delivery model for legal services. for legal research.

A cluster of Indian legal tech start-ups such as SpotDraft, CaseMine, NearLaw, Pensieve, Practice League etc. are developing natural language processing based applications that are initiating next-generation legal research programs to assist law firms in going beyond effortless, keyword-based research, thereby making it efficient. Most of such start-ups are swiftly rising in AI and NLP research capabilities, some of which have their own research labs, where softwares are being developed and trained as per the needs of lawyers and law firms.

Not only are the software solutions replacing paperwork and data management, the legal industry is also becoming consumer-centric. It is also helping save time in routine tasks of a lawyer, so that one can focus on more important facets. Presently, there are many areas of work in a legal pracitioners’s aresenal, in which artificial intelligence is proving to be useful:

  1. Legal Research – A lawyer spends most of his/her time carrying out research wherein accurate research plays an integral part in opining clients or winning a case. With the use of of AI backed software it would be an aid for lawyers to find relevant case laws and applicable statutes. With this software advancement at disposal, complex legal questions can be answered in simple and basic language in a a timely and cost-effective manner.

 

  1. Due Diligence – Due diligence is an exhausting yet historically imperative procedure in yielding a positive analogy. However, on the brighter side AI systems help to do the same task but in a more organized and faster manner. AI is also known to makes thorough checks of the facts and the figures, which helps in providing effective counselling to the clients. AI legal softwares such are Kira are proving to be helpful and time effective.

 

  1. Contract generation – Drafting contracts is like bread and butter for a legal practitioner in any field, wherein many companies have started utilizing AI based softwares in drafting standard and routine legal contracts. These softwares help in generating basic templates which can be later customized as per the needs and requirements of the clients.

 

  1. Legal Analytics – Artificial Intelligence provides for the data points from past case laws, and also provides judgements and precedent law to be used by lawyers in their present cases.

 

  1. Intellectual Property– Tools of artificial intelligence helps in providing the insights into the IP portfolios i.e. search and registration of a trademark, Patent, Copyrights etc.
  2. Electronic Billing- AI enhanced softwares also help lawyers and firms in preparing the invoices as per the work done by them. It makes for accurate billing for the work done by a lawyer or the firm as a whole. Thus, it works as an effective tool for both lawyers and clients.

 

  1. Innovations in servicing clients –The way in which clients are serviced would drastically change in the future. Law Firms would approach their clients with an innovative approach and more authentic and economic legal solutions. Presently, Indian law firms bill their services based on the time spent on the matters i.e. the billable hour method. However, this approach would become obsolete in the future. In order to service their clients better, law firms would look at innovating their pricing strategies and implement say a Performance-Based Pricing Strategy: as the name suggests, this pricing model would be extremely client friendly as the client shall be asked to pay only once targets have been met and the same would strengthen the professional relations between the clients and the firms.

 

Conclusion

While AI comes into the fore, it is possible that a machine may take over our lives. However, there is no reason why AI cannot be curbed. It is important to understand the importance of AI and find unique ways to regulate its usage effectively. Instead of letting AI take over, it should be let to act as an agent of change to create smarter lawyers and be able to attack problems like high legal costs and pendency of cases in courts. The power of AI could also be used by the Government to by making it affoordable for law firms and legal practioners.

Even though there are substantial restrictions today, however given the time and effort to evolve, these shortcomings may not exist in the coming five to ten years. Technology will eveolve more radically and sooner than we expect. Thus, although software driven machines are just beginning to perform mundane tasks of the legal field, it is likely that we can expect substantial growth in the near future whereby computers may mimic intelligent reasoning. Given the power to harness and regulate AI, we would be  able to fix some of the most notable problems to customers and lawyers and its value shouldn’t be underestimated or dismissed on account of skepticism.

 


Guest Author, Views are personal.

 

4 YEARS OF RERA: THE DOGMA OF HOPE?

By Adv Siddhant Mehta

Four years and counting, ever since the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) was arrayed,
the real estate sector continues to play a prominent role in backing India’s fiscal progression,
being one of the principal cradles of employment and infrastructural growth. Inopportunely,
due to the lack of directives and stern practices until 2016, the sector had been pigeonholed by
a great deal of lop-sidedness, ever so often generating high – levels of wariness and dread midst
home buyers, bankers and promoters.
RERA was ordained to stimulate transparency and culpability by way of shielding the rights
and interests of the homebuyers, leading to an about-turn in home deals. Nonetheless, the
wholehearted involvement of the Indian states in its nascent stages is worth noting. While, there
lies an obstacle laden path ahead, it is a seemingly incredible feat to garner recognition and
approval given the trepidations during its formative past of contemplative decision making.
Likewise, even though the home buyers had been fretting about the newfound guidelines, they
seem to be bequeathing their trust in the The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act,
2016 (Act) by way of invoking proceedings against dishonest builders for rampant delays and
fabricated assurances.
As currently positioned, an approximate of 39,855 projects 1
have been listed under RERA,
owing to the notification of the general rules in 30 states whilst establishing permanent
adjudicating bodies in 20 states. It is reassuring to note the steady decline in some of the most
common protests such as untimely possessions, false declarations and inappropriate
accounting/billing for additional areas and/or amenities provided, due to the fundamental rights
conferred upon the home buyers and the stringent statutory compliances met by the builders.
Conversely, the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Maha RERA) seems to have
successfully issued orders and/or cleared off 64% of the 6,631 complaints received, as of April
20192
.
As a result, the Maha RERA has been given more teeth vide the order passed by the Bombay
High Court in August 2018, wherein the authority’s power had been boosted to deal with
grievances of unregistered projects.3
Since its inception, RERA has endeavored to cultivate the practice to urge and make
builders/promoters compliant with the Act, despite which builders would neither make
payments nor attend hearings. However, 2 years down the line, things have reformed with
builders being reprimanded by the concerned RERA authorities for being in breach of the
RERA guidelines. As a matter of fact, builders are now broadcasting the RERA listing and aggressively registering their ventures to draw attention towards the home – buyers and
financiers.
The real estate sector is living through consolidation as the disorganized builders are finding it
hard to comply with the stringent norms under RERA. It is abundantly clear that only upright
builders/promoters will make ends meet with the impending wave of progress in the sector.
Amongst other compliances, builders are now supposed to deliver an affirmation to the home
– buyers declaring the legitimate legal title to the land, alongside authentic documents as proof.
RERA has even gone a step ahead in the process of safeguarding the interest of home buyers
by advocating an equally poised model (builder – buyer) agreement for sale, which can be
prepared and regulated in consonance with the respective state rules. Whereinafter, the
existence of some penal provisions mandating a certain sense of credibility amongst the
builders together with norms relating to disclosures, has facilitated transparency.
It is laudable, to acknowledge the Government’s twin tower intervention of the Act and
demonetization, that brought about the much desired jolt to the realty sector. So much so, that
cash induced dealings vanished into oblivion, provisions were introduced to protect the interest
of home buyers, developers were barred from using monies in a fungible manner and the Apex
Court became the messiah of the masses by belting orders against rowdy developers.
The significant creeds of RERA that enkindled with home-buyers and all parties associated
include:
i. The right to inspect the clarity and marketability of the land title
ii. Reflection of associated litigations on the portals
iii. Background and portfolio of the developers
iv. Registration of projects only on the procurement of all necessary sanctions
v. Transparency of the invested monies vide creation of escrow accounts
vi. Provision of a model agreement for sale
vii. Apprising the home buyers about the latest approvals vide web portals
viii. Stringent timelines pertaining to the completion of the projects
ix. Heavy consequences for non-compliance of the norms (penalties upto 10% of the
project cost)
x. Customer centricity and transparency
xi. Certificates from developer proving the quality of construction
xii. The power vested in the home buyers to remove developers from the project
(MahaRERA SOP)
xiii. The ability and right of the home buyers to pay in accordance with a project’s progress
(MPRERA)
Even so, it is equally essential for the builders to have the funds and other prerequisite reserves
to be able to complete any venture. It would be in stark contrast to the previous commercial
scenario where a huge chunk of the monetary backing was principally reliant on incremental
deals without any strict deadlines. Likewise, it is pertinent for the states to set-up a structure for the comfort of carrying out
development in the real estate sector and improve demand, assuming the sector’s involvement
to the total economy in terms of service providers and the demand of intake it brings forth to
supplementary zones like steel, cement, etc. Hence, administrative inclination and
organisational competence will continue to be fundamental aspects on the road to enactment.
On the flipside, there are manifestations where the provision of the Act have been diluted by
the States which go against the dictum of RERA, predominantly with respect to “ongoing
projects”. The watering down of the explanation of what institutes an ‘on-going project’
continues to be a sizeable worry. More than a few States decided to modify this definition in
such a manner that various incomplete projects may be excused from the ambit of RERA.
Coincidently, the intention of the Apex Court and the Act are on the same footing to permeate
self-assurance in the realty sector by warranting that the projects are scrutinised and finalized
in a judicious way by complying with all the rules and guidelines.
Correspondingly, regulations pertaining to imprisonment for not following the orders of the
RERA authorities have been concocted by furnishing for compounding of breaches and hefty
consequences on the defaulter.
In pursuance to the dilutions, the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutional legitimacy of
RERA and its applicability to ongoing projects across States in Neelkamal Realtors Suburban
Pvt. Ltd. And anr Vs. Union of India4
. The 2017 order came subsequent to the Apex Court’s
ruling asking the Bombay High Court to set the track on analogous encounters in other courts.
The ruling, offered respite to developers too, it extended RERA’s authority to allow more time
as a concession to developers for the timely completion of a project. Such bonus time is
intended to be only granted in compelling situations, depending on a case to case basis.
Auxiliary to all the aforementioned enrichments and apprehensions, one region of development
that can help the Act in becoming more relevant is if the standing State RERA authorities
(inclusive of other Committees and tribunals) are endowed further and this law is prescribed in
an evenhanded fashion, the legislation shall meritoriously function as an ombudsman to watch
over and accelerate the operations of pendent ongoing developments. This process may
possibly effect a rate of lessened pressure on the legal fraternity to individually handle these
developments and projects on an advanced footing.
In conclusion, going ahead, the nationwide orientation of the central and state rules will act as
a channel to propagate uniformity. Presently, the deviance between the central and state rules
is hampering the capacity of the builders to come up with projects across the nation.
Streamlining of the rules will not just aid the builders to maneuver their resources on the road
to organization and expansion, but also reinforce the home buyer’s assurance in the course.

=============

Views are personal.

Consumer Protection Act: Act includes establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and rules for prevention of unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms

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By SRELJ Bureau

The Consumer Protection Act,2019 comes in to force from today i.e. 20th July 2020. While briefing the media about the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 through video conference here today, the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Shri Ram Vilas Paswan said that this new Act will empower consumers and help them in protecting their rights through its various notified Rules and provisions like Consumer Protection Councils, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, Mediation, Product Liability and punishment for manufacture or sale of products containing adulterant / spurious goods.

He said that the Act includes establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.  The CCPA will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints / prosecution, order recall of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements. Shri Paswan further said that the rules for prevention of unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms will also be covered under this Act. The gazette notification for establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority and rules for prevention of unfair trade practice in e-commerce are under publication.

Shri Paswan further said under this act every e-commerce entity is required to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options, etc. including country of origin which are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.  He said that e-commerce platforms have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act. He further added that the New Act introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation.

Shri Paswan further informed that the new Act provides for simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer commissions, which include, among others,  empowerment of the State and District Commissions to review their own orders, enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and file complaints in consumer Commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence, videoconferencing for hearing and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.

The Minister said an Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism of Mediation has been provided in the new Act.  This will simplify the adjudication process.  A complaint will be referred by a Consumer Commission for mediation, wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for it. Mediation will be held in the Mediation Cells to be established under the aegis of the Consumer Commissions.  There will be no appeal against settlement through mediation.

He said, as per the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules, there will be no fee for filing cases upto Rs. 5 lakh. There are provisions for filing complaints electronically, credit of amount due to unidentifiable consumers to Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF).  The State Commissions will furnish information to Central Government on a quarterly basis on vacancies, disposal, pendency of cases and other matters.

Shri Paswan further informed that the New Act also introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation. The Act provides for punishment by a competent court for manufacture or sale of adulterant/spurious goods. The court may, in case of first conviction, suspend any licence issued to the person for a period of up to two years, and in case of second or subsequent conviction, cancel the licence.

Under this new Act, besides general rules, there are Central Consumer Protection Council Rules, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules, Appointment of President & Members in State/District Commission Rules, Mediation Rules, Model Rules and E-Commerce Rules and Consumer Commission Procedure Regulations, Mediation Regulations and Administrative control over State Commission & District Commission Regulations.

Shri Paswan said that the Central Consumer Protection Council Rules are provided for constitution of the Central Consumer Protection Council, an advisory body on consumer issues, headed by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution with the Minister of State as Vice Chairperson and 34 other members from different fields. The Council, which has a three-year tenure, will have Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs from two States from each region- North, South, East, West, and NER. There is also provision for having working groups from amongst the members for specific tasks.

In his concluding remarks, Shri Paswan said that in earlier Consumer Protection Act, 1986a single point access to justice was given, which is also time consuming. The new act has been introduced after many amendments to provide protection to buyers not only from traditional sellers but also from the new e-commerce retailers/platforms. He said that this Act will prove a significant tool in protecting consumer rights in the country.

Click here for presentation on salient features of CPA 2019

New Consumer Protection Act to come into force from 20th July 2020: State Commission to have limit upto 10cr

By SRELJ Bureau

The salient features of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 :

1. All the District forums are renamed as District Commissions. Hence forth all the District Forum now be called as Commissions.

2. To file an appeal, Opposite Party needs to deposit upto 50% of the amount ordered by District Commission.

3. An appeal can be now filed within 45 days of Order.

4. The original pecuniary jurisdiction of District Commission shall be uptil Rs. 1 Crore, State Commission from 1 Cr – 10 Cr. and NCDRC to be more than Rs. 10 crore. All Orders for aggregations of consumer will be applicable.

5. Now complainant can also institute the complaint within the territorial jurisdiction of the Commission where the complainant resides or personally works for gain besides what was provided earlier

6. Very important provisions under Section 49(2) and 59(2) of the new act gives power to the State Commission and NCDRC respectively to declare any terms of contract, which is unfair to any consumer, to be null and void.

7. A second appeal to NCDRC has been provided U/s 51(3) if there is a substantial question of law involved in the matter

8. Power of revision can still be exercised by NCDRC U/s 58(1)(b) and by State commission under 47(1)(b) of the Act.

9. Power of review has been conferred to District Commission, State Commission and NCDRC U/s 40, 50 and 60 of the Act respectively

10. NCDRC can hear appeals against the order of Central Authority by virtue of Section 58 of the Act

11. Period of limitation in filing of complaint remains 2 years with a provision for condonation of delay power U/s 69 of the Act

12. Section 70 provides for administrative control of State Commission over District Commission and that of NCDRC over State Commission. It inter alia provides for investigation into any allegations against the President and members of a State Commission / District Commission and submitting inquiry report to the State Government concerned along with copy endorsed to the Central Government for necessary action

13. Mediation is given statutory status by way of introduction of Section 74 in the new Act. As a new measures to solve problems out of court and through mediation, this new initiative has been provided.

14. A product liability action may be brought by a complainant against a product manufacturer or a product service provider or a product seller, as the case may be, for any harm caused to him on account of a defective product.

15. Chapter III of the Act provides for creation of Central Authority to regulate matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers and to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class

16. The Central Authority shall have an Investigation Wing headed by a Director General for the purpose of conducting inquiry or investigation under this Act as may be directed by the Central Authority.

With new New Consumer Protection Act, which was awaited long back there was huge confusion as to financial jurisdiction. Now after the notifications, State Commission now can deal with transactions up to 10 cr.

Karnataka RERA issue SOP for modified plans

By SRELJ

Karnataka RERA have issued a circular K-RERA/EnggSec/Modified Plans/2019 dated 24th June 2020 for procedure to be adopted for processing and incorporating the Modified Plans sanctions and lay outs  Plans in the registered project under section 14 of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016.

A consent of Land owner , 2/3rd Allotees, which ever case may be is required before submitting the modified plans.

A copy of the circular may be obtained from editorial team of SRELJ.

Punjab and Haryana High Court term Punjab RERA extension of project order as “Omnibus”

By SRELJ

Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed its operation of an Order passed by the Punjab Real Estate Regulatory Authority for “palpably wrong” circular during the Covid lock down period for extending the term of projects whose registration had expired.

The Bench observed that the circular “may even give protection to those promoters and builders whose registration may have expired long back”. The Central Advisory of RERA had already suggested to state RERAs to give extension of six months for projects which are completing after 25th March 2020 and a further extension of three months on case to case basis.

The Bench comprised of Mr Justice Rajan Gupta and Mr Justice Karamjit Singh had stayed the order in the matter where a a petition was filed against the Union of India and other respondents by r Vinod Kumar. He was aggrieved by circular dated May 13 2020, whereby Punjab RERA extended by six months the validity period of registration of projects.

Pleading before the Bench, the counsel for complainant contended that ostensibly the circular was issued to give relief to projects whose registration was expiring by March 15. But even the term of projects, whose registration had expired long back, had been extended by six months by the virtue of impugned circular.

The Bench observed that the Bench failed to understand the need for passing an “omnibus order” giving protection to all projects in the state, irrespective of whether the registration is expired long back or due legitimately and particularly when the Act had a specific provision for entertaining applications on behalf of promoters/builders for time extension.

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