Saturday, May 8, 2010

Three cheers for Their Lordships, the Judges of India!!!

It was a pleasant surprise when I attended the National Seminar on Enforcement of Cyber Law at the Symposium Hall, NASC, PUSA, New Delhi on the 8th of May, 2010, organized by the Cyber Appellate Tribunal under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, New Delhi. The one day seminar was well attended by Hon'ble Judges of the Supreme Court, Hon'ble Chief Justices of the High Courts, Hon'ble Judges of the High Courts, leading advocates and the State IT Secretaries [also designated as the Adjudicating Officers under the Information Technology Act, 2000]. The seminar was inaugurated by the Hon'ble Mr. Justice K G Balakrishnan, the Chief Justice of India in presence of Mr. R. Chandrasekhar IAS, Secretary, IT, Govt. of India and other luminaries.

I did not expect much commotion or excitement, as it happens sometimes in conferences when ideological battle lines are pitched. It was more of so many sections and sub-sections of the IT Act 2000 and IT(Amendment) Act 2008 and their whys and hows.

My roving eyes spotted Hon'ble Mr. Justice Yatindra Singh, Judge, High Court of Allahabad. We were together in the first ODF Conference at Berlin. He is a staunch supporter of open source and one of the key men who made the e-Courts project go the open source way to the 15000 courts in the country. It was a moment for renewing old friendship, exchange of pleasantries and walking down the memory lane.

The first post lunch session was chaired by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Altamas Kabir, Judge, Supreme Court who is another pioneer in shaping the IT Act 2000 and architecting computerization in the courts. The first lecture in the session was by Mr. Justice Yatindra Singh who delivered a measured dose of his views in his own charismatic style [he was such a pleasure to listen to in the Berlin conference]. It really made me feel so nice to see that he had brought his presentation in PDF and not in PPT [all the conference organizers in the world think that the presentation can only be made in ppt format through the Microsoft Power Point alone and alone. I have yet to come across a conference where the organizers ensure a platform neutral arrangements for presentation. The IT guy who was handling the presentation was definitely illiterate in IT, as he could not fix up the presentation in PDF marring the soaring spirits of Mr. Singh.]

The second session post lunch was what opened my eyes and made me write this blog with the background material that you have read so far. It was on e-Courts and the session was chaired by Hon'ble Mr. Justice P K Balasubramaniayan, the Chairman of e-Committee, Supreme Court. The panelists included Hon'ble Mr. Justice Anil Kumar and Hon'ble Mr. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, Judges of the Delhi High Court and champions of the e-Courts project, Mr. Savitur Prasad IAS, Secretary, IT , Govt. of Delhi, and Mr. Pawan Duggal, Sr. Advocate, Supreme Court. During Q&A session, one of the judges from the audience raised the issue of Windows vs Linux. [you can imagine my excitement really shooting up this time... a debate on Linux vs Windows in a conference of Judges!!!] The issue which he raised was that the computers and laptops that the judges had been given were not the latest and up to the mark. When some judges wanted to install Speech Dragon, it could not be done. Also some vendors said that the machines could not take higher RAM as because they were in Unix/Linux. The crux of the issue was why Judges should bother about what system they are using. He said that if the best was given to the Judges, only then the Judges would also produce the best output.

I had an impulse to react immediately, but definitely not in conference of Judges, especially when the issues were raised by a Judge himself... and lo and behold, Hon'ble Mr. Justice R C Chavan, Judge, Bombay High Court, another champion of the Open Source, who was sitting in the row just below, responded. He said it was not a question of best equipment as they were already having the best machines that ran Linux. Nothing beats that. He said that why judiciary should promote one brand and one company, and why Microsoft Word in not available in LINUX [ I always feel the same way too!], and why the Govt. should spend Rs. 17000 per license X 15000 licenses of Speech Dragon [amounting to Rs. 25, 50, 00,000.00] just for one software. In that amount we could develop a Speech engine for all Indian languages on open source[Anybody listening...!].

Then, I spoke that the Judges of India should be congratulated for their wonderful effort in promoting and actively using LINUX.

Yes, the Indian Judiciary is an example for the world to behold. The Judges of India have given the verdict in favour of Linux. Why are others shying away?