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State Law Department to preserve legal case records in Digital Format

6/12/2021 at 5:48 PM

Bhubaneswar, Dec 6: State Law Department is all set to preserve all the legal case records in Digital Format.

Digital Record Keeping will be expedited across the state in order to preserve the age-old documents along with the newly generated files starting from the High Court to the Taluk level Courts, the department informed through a press release.

According to the handout, record keeping is an important component of office management in every organization. Judicial institutions are no exception to it.  From the Supreme Court at the National level to the  Courts at Taluka level lakhs of cases are filed every day and nearly equal numbers of cases are disposed of. Huge numbers of records are generated on daily basis in the shape of new filings in physical l form. The disposed of case records are stored safely in the Record Rooms of the respective Courts.

The High Court of Orissa was established in the year  1948.  Being a Court of Record it had to ensure that its legacy records (disposed of records) were stored and preserved securely and that access to such records remained convenient and less time consuming for posterity.  Additionally, with more and more legacy records being consigned to the records rooms regularly, solutions had to be found for managing space within these record rooms. On average, more than one lakh cases are filed and about 85000 cases are disposed of in the High Court every year.

When  Justice, Dr S. Muralidhar assumed the charge of the office of Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, the Record  Rooms in the  High Court were already overflown. With a view to addressing the enormous challenge of storage,  preservation and retrieval of the ever-growing corpus of legacy records,  under the instruction of Chief Justice the process of scanning of legacy records was given a  boost early in  2021  by simultaneously establishing three scanning hubs in the High Court building and enhancing prime resources to sustain the endeavour. The idea was to ensure that by scanning the legacy records and keeping a database of such scanned records, their soft copy or authenticated printout of soft copies could be accessed with the click of a button thereby ensuring that there is the minimum movement of physical records and their reduced exposure to ancillary hazards.

However, a constant necessity was felt to revamp the process of storage and scanning of the legacy records for providing long term solutions. This led to the conceptualization and establishment of the  High  Court’s Record Room Digitization Centre (RRDC), taking the process of storing, preserving, scanning and retrieving legacy records of the High Court to a whole new level.  RRDC was established to provide a one-stop solution for all of the Court’s requirements relating to storage, digitization, preservation and retrieval of legacy case records. Accordingly, separate spaces were dedicated in the  RRDC  for the  Court’s  Civil and Criminal Record  Rooms as well as for the work of their scanning and digitization.  Cutting edge technology and amenities have been provided in the RRDC to maintain consistency in the process of storing, scanning and retrieving legacy records.

To augment the endeavour carried out in the  RRDC, the   High Court’s new rules for preservation and destruction of case records have been notified laying down revamped procedures for scanning,  preservation and destruction of legacy records including records.

The   RRDC  is located nearby the   Odisha  Judicial  Academy,  adjacent to the New Building of Odisha State Legal Services Authority, Cuttack, situated approximately a kilometre away from the  High  Court, Dr .  J u s tice D.Y. Chandrachud, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Chairperson, e ­-Committee inaugurated the RRDC on September 11, 2021.

Equipped with state of art fire -fighting and surveillance technology, PA system, multiple elevators, conference halls, lobby and  ICT equipment the Record Room Digitization Centre is a fully endowed embodiment of  Orissa  High  Court’s efforts towards adopting optimum standards in storage,  digitization,  preservation and retrieval of legacy records .

The servers containing the repository of the scanned records are maintained with utmost precision and have been made accessible from all locations of the  RRDC  as well as the Courtrooms and offices of the  High Court so that in case of any need of referring to the legacy records by any Bench, the concerned record can be accessed over a  closed and secured network with the click of a   mouse button.  The scanned records are not accessible through the internet. Therefore,  the danger of someone hacking into the system is ruled out.

While the   Civil and    Criminal Record Rooms in the   RRDC have their respective dedicated staffs working in the building,  the overall supervision of the works of RRDC has been entrusted to a senior and experienced staff.

Similarly, the work of scanning and digitization of the legacy records in the RRDC is being carried out through  NICSI  by one of its empanelled vendors. The scanning team comprises a large number of technical and non-technical personnel and  Court assigned verifiers who ensure that the scanning of records goes on smoothly in the RRDC.

There are records that are in such fragile condition that those cannot undergo the process of scanning.  Such records are permanently preserved in a separate room called the  Fragile  Record  Room.  Rec o rd s  ageing more than two centuries are preserved there and there is a proposal for consulting historians and facilitating them to study such records and research on the evolution of the State Judiciary.

Thus the already existing legacy records in physical form are being digitized in RRDC on a massive scale. Digitization of the pending physical records has also been taken up and three benches have started functioning paperless, the Bench of Chief Justice being the pilot project. Besides that e­ Filing of cases and documents is being promoted to check the inflow of papers by establishing an e-Filing Station in the High Court and organizing Hands-on Training programme for the lawyers to educate them about the techniques of e-Filing. Filing of cases by the Union Government and  State Government and their agencies has been made mandatory and presently such cases are being filed only through the e-Filing portal.

Initiatives like the establishment of e-Filing Stations, Ha n d s -on Training Programmes for lawyers and digitization of records have even been replicated in some  District  Courts.  Presently digitization of records has been undertaken in four districts namely, Balasore,  Cuttack,  Ganjam and Sambalpur. While the digitization of records of the  Cuttack  District  Court is going on in RRDC, that of the other three districts are going on in their respective Court Complexes. Gradually these initiatives will be replicated in all 30 districts.

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