SC affirms mandatory e-filing in DRTs, DRATS; passes directions to make it accesible

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 The Supreme Court recently affirmed mandatory e-filing in Debts Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) and Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunals (DRATs). while passing certain directions to make e-filing more accessible for everyone.

A CJI DY Chandrachud, led bench has highlighted that e-filing not only provides for transparency and efficiency but also facilitates 24/7 access to justice and enforces convenience of lawyers and litigants.

A plea was filed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court Bar Association challenging the notification of the Ministry of Finance which amended Rule 3 of the Debts Recovery Tribunals and Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunals Electronic Filing (Amendment) Rules, 2023 and provided for e-filing of pleadings by applicants before DRT/DRAT as mandatory without any limit.

The petitioner argued that the amendment to the rules were made without holding deliberations with all stakeholders. 

A bench comprising Justice Narasimha and Pardiwala was further told that change was too sudden and litigants were not given enough time to adjust to it.

While stating that many DRTs were situated in areas with low internet connectivity, the petitioner argued that technology should be an enabler and not a disabler and that it may not be fair for senior citizens, and for female practitioners and clients.

CJI, on hearing this submission expressed his surprise and said that femali advocates were more tech savvy.

The bench went on to allow the bar association to submit their representations in case of any difficulties faced while stating that such representations shall focus on concrete suggestions to make e-filing more accessible.

All chairpersons of DRTs and DRATs have also been directed to submit reports on a monthly basis initially for a period of 6 months suggesting if any upgradation was necessary. 

Moreover, the Director General of National Informatics Centre have been asked to constitute a team to monitor the progress of e-filing in DRTs and DRATs. Union government has also been asked to set up help desks.

Further, the court stated that it would be appropriate for the Financial Services Department to prepare a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for e-seva kendras and that the same would be in line with the mission of the e-Committee of the Supreme Court.

The Department of Finance has been asked to complete this exercise in 3 months.

Case Title: MP High Court Bar Association vs. Union of India