E-Justice: Can it help governance?

Despite the government’s successful implementation of successive e-governance tools such as Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems CCTNS, Inter-Operable Criminal Justice which also includes integration of e-Courts and e-Prisons, it will not automatically improve governance especially with respect to the way criminal justice system operates in India. Even after implementation of such e-governance technology, success rates for investigation, lodging of First Information Report (FIR), filing charge-sheet by police before the Court, prosecution and successful conviction will vary for different states.

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS)

  • Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) is a plan scheme conceived in the light of experience of a non-plan scheme namely – Common Integrated Police Application (CIPA).
  • CCTNS is a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of Govt. of India.
  • CCTNS aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing through adopting of principle of e-Governance.
  • CCTNS also aims at creation of a nationwide networking infrastructure for evolution of IT-enabled-state-of-the-art tracking system around ‘Investigation of crime and detection of criminals’.  
  • CCTNS connects police stations and digitises registration of FIR, investigation and charge sheets.  

The objectives of the Scheme can broadly be listed as follows:

  1. Make the Police functioning citizen friendly and more transparent by automating the functioning of Police Stations.
  2. Improve delivery of citizen-centric services through effective usage of ICT.
  3. Provide the Investigating Officers of the Civil Police with tools, technology and information to facilitate investigation of crime and detection of criminals.
  4. Improve Police functioning in various other areas such as Law and Order, Traffic Management etc.
  5. Facilitate Interaction and sharing of Information among Police Stations, Districts, State/UT headquarters and other Police Agencies.
  6. Assist senior Police Officers in better management of Police Force
  7. Keep track of the progress of Cases, including in Courts
  8. Reduce manual and redundant Records keeping

Implementation Framework – CCTNS

  • CCTNS has been implemented in alignment with the National e-Governance Plan principle of “centralized planning and de-centralized implementation”.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) are playing a key role in planning the program in collaboration with the Police leadership within States, in the development of a few core components and in monitoring and reviewing the program.   
  • It is the States and Union Territories (UT) that drives the planning and implementation at the State and UT level.
  • The role of the Centre (MHA and NCRB) focuses primarily around planning, providing the Core Application Software (CAS) (to be configured, customized, enhanced and deployed in States.
  • Whereas the States and UTs drives the implementation at the state level and have continued to own the system after deployment.
  • The central feature of CCTNS implementation at the State level is the “bundling of services” concept. According to this, each States selected one System Integrator (SI) who is the single point of contact for the State for all the components of CCTNS.
  • These components include the application (the changes made to the core application provided by MHA), hardware, communications infrastructure, associated services such as Capacity Building and Handholding, etc. 

Expected Benefits for Various Stakeholders

A. Benefits to Police Department

  1. Enhanced tools for investigation.
  2. Centralized crime and criminal information repository along with the criminal images and fingerprints with advanced search capabilities.
  3. Enhanced ability to analyze crime patterns and/ or modus operandi
  4. Enhanced ability to analyze road incidents and other accidents.
  5. Faster turnaround time for the analysis results (criminal and traffic) to reach the officers on the field.
  6. Reduced workload for the police stations back-office activities such as preparation of regular and ad-hoc reports and station records management.
  7. A collaborative knowledge-oriented environment where knowledge is shared across different regions and units.
  8. Better co-ordination and communication with external stakeholders through implementation of electronic information exchange systems.

B. Benefits to Ministry of Home Affairs (NCRB)

  1. Standardized means of capturing the crime and criminal data across the police stations in the country.
  2. Faster and easier access to crime and criminal information across the country in a manner amenable for trend and pattern analysis.
  3. Enhanced ability to detect crime patterns through modus operandi across the States/UTs and communicate to the state police departments for aiding in crime prevention.
  4. The ability to respond faster and with greater accuracy to inquiries from the parliament, citizens and citizens groups; and to RTI queries.
  5. Easy and low-cost scalability of crime and criminal systems in the future.

C. Benefits to Citizens

  1. Multiple channels to access services from police.
  2. Simplified process for registering petitions.
  3. Simplified process for accessing general services such as requests for certificates, verifications, and permissions.
  4. Simplified process and accurate means of tracking the progress of the case during trials.
  5. Simplified and accurate access to view/report unclaimed/recovered vehicles and property.
  6. Simplified process and channel for grievance registration.
  7. Improved relationship management for victims and witnesses
  8. Faster and assured response from police to any emergency calls for assistance.

D. Benefits to external departments

  1. Seamless integration with police systems for better citizen service delivery and improved law enforcement.
  2. Quick exchange of accurate information with the police department.

Inter-operable Criminal Justice System

  • Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) aims to integrate the Crime and Criminals Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) project with the e-courts and e-prisons databases, as well as with other pillars of the criminal justice system such as Forensics, Prosecution, and Juvenile homes in a phased manner.
  • ICJS is thus a common platform for information exchange and analytics of all the pillars of the criminal justice system comprising of Police, Forensics, Prosecution, Courts& Prisons.
  • Invested under the CCTNS project of the MHA, the ICJS enables a nationwide search on police, prisons & courts databases across all States/ UTs in the country.

e-Courts Project

  • The eCourts 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.
  • E-committee is a body constituted by the Government of India in pursuance of a proposal received from Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India to constitute an e-Committee to assist him in formulating a National policy on computerization of Indian Judiciary and advise on technological communication and management related changes.
  • 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.
  • The E-Courts Mission Mode Project (Phase I 2010-15; Phase II 2015-19) is a national e – Governance project for ICT enablement of district and subordinate courts of the country. The major objectives of the Project are –   
  • To make whole judicial system ICT enabled by putting in place adequate and modern hardware and connectivity;
  • Automation of workflow management in all courts;
  • Electronic movement of records from taluka/trial to appeal courts;
  • Installation of video conferencing (VC) facility and recording of witness through Video Conferencing; connecting all courts in the country to the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) through WAN and additional redundant connectivity;
  • Citizen centric facilities such as electronic filing, e-payment and use of mobile applications in all courts; 
  • Touch screen based kiosks in each court complex, full computerisation of State and district level judicial and service academies and centres.    

The e-Court Project Envisages

  • 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.

E-PRISON PROJECT

  • e-Prisons have been operationalised across all states and Union Territories by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The e-prison data has been integrated with Police and court system under the Inter-Operable Criminal Justice System.
  • The system can be accessed through the secure National Informatics Centre (NIC) network, exclusively by authorising officials of law enforcement agencies and prisons through inter-operable Criminal Justice System.
  • e-Prisons Application Suite, developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC), is cloud-based product designed with easy to use GUI and embedded with comprehensive security features. It can be easily adopted by any State Prisons Department with minimum customization efforts since all the possible customization features are parameterized and can be configured by the users.

e-prison application

  • The e-Prisons application suite integrates all the activities related to prison and prisoner management.
  • It provides vital information about the inmates lodged in the prisons in a real-time environment to the courts, prison officials and other entities, involved in the Criminal Justice System.
  • It facilitates online visit requests and grievance redressal.

About e-Prison Project

  • The e-Prisons Project of Ministry of Home Affairs aims at computerization of the functioning of prisons in the country including digitisation and availability of prisoner’s data (convicts, under-trials, detenues etc.) in an electric platform which will be accessible to designated authorities of central and state governments.  
  • e-Prisons Project will help in creating centralised standard information database. 
  • e-Prisons uses data maintained by the States and Union Territories on the National Prisons Information Portal as per protocols notified for e-Prisons.

Components of e-Prison Project

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  • E-Prisons Management Information System (MIS) – Management Information System used at the prisons for their day to day regular activities. The major modules of e-Prisons MIS are:
  • Prisoner Information Management System (PIMS);
  • Visitor Management System (e-Visitor);
  • Hospital Management System (e-Hospital);
  • Legal Aid Management System;
  • Inventory Management System;
  • Prison Management System (PMS);
  • Police Intelligence System;
  • Court Monitoring; and
  • Kiosk Information.
  • National Prisons Information Portal (NPIP) – It is a citizen-centric portal that displays statistical data from the country’s numerous prisons. 
  • Visitors can use this portal to schedule visits with their wards inside the prison;
  • Grievances about their wards can also be submitted using the portal;
  • This portal also provides with inmate tracking facilities in a secured way to various investigating agencies.
  • Kara Bazaar – Portal for showing and selling things made by convicts in various jails across the country. All of the state prison departments now have access to the necessary technology for on boarding.

Concerns in Implementation of e-Governance Tools to improve Criminal Justice System

  • Implementation of CCTNS across police stations with respect to steps towards digitisation of police records and its sharing with other police stations is not uniform.
  • Thus, 97 per cent of police stations may have been connected to CCTNS, but the figure is 77 per cent for West Bengal (as of January 2022).
  • Investigation Rates vary across states and in general for crimes under Indian Penal Code, it is only 65 per cent. This leaves the question about the remaining 35 per cent and also the fact that investigation need not lead to lodging of FIR.
  • Under-staffed police stations is another reason for non-uniformity in implementation of CCTNS across police stations in different states.
  • Police and Prisons are in the State List of Seventh Schedule and accordingly it is upto the respective state governments to implement the Model Prison Manual brought by MHA in 2016. So, states having antiquated prison manuals will not achieve much with new e-prison norms.
  • Even the functioning of Police based on the old and archaic Police Act of 1861 will not achieve much unless Model Police Act, 2015 is adopted by respected state governments as suggested by the The Police Act Drafting Committee or Soli Sorabjee Committee.

Way Forward – With the above stated shortcomings, it will be difficult to achieve the principles of “one country”, “one police” and “one prison”. Thus, in order for the e-governance tools such as CCTNS, e-Prison, e-Courts etc. to become successfully operable in India, differences in the functioning of police in different states needs to be resolved and also needs to be harmonised.  

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