Now, all UP revenue board cases available online

The result: what earlier took days, and some ‘speed money’, is now done in a matter of minutes

shivangi-narayan

Shivangi Narayan | September 10, 2014



Illustration: Ashish Asthana

The numbers are mindboggling. There are 2,179 revenue courts spread across Uttar Pradesh’s 75 districts – and their tehsils and blocks. Between them, these courts have 24,19,035 cases pending. And till recently, it was an arduous task to get information on most such cases, as it was not available at a central location.

But notwithstanding the mammoth spread of the numbers, the cases themselves have come closer to the litigants, as well as the average citizen. Reason: they are all available at the click of a mouse, with all necessary details – dates of their last hearings, the next hearing dates, orders last passed, and the final judgments.

According to Alok Kumar, commissioner, board of revenue, UP, the revenue department needed to connect these cases so that every single one of them was available online.

Taking all the data online has had another significant upshot: it has broken the monopoly of the ‘peshkar’ – or the court reader – over all this information. Earlier, unless one asked this court official about her/his cases, there was no way to find out even basic details like what happened in the last hearing and when the next hearing was slated for.

With only one person possessing all the information, naturally there was a lot of corruption in that interface. “It was a monopoly of information with the reader, which needed to be democratised with the help of an online mechanism,” said Kumar.

Web application comes to help
Till date, the cause list – or the list scheduling cases to be heard by the courts the following day – is prepared manually for district courts of UP. But, Kumar added, the cause list for every revenue court in the state is uploaded online every day. This, he explained, is done with the revenue case management system (RCMS).

This application to help the revenue board manage their cases present in several courts across UP was developed by the state NIC and technical department of the revenue board, Lucknow.

Emphasising the significance of this digital incursion, Kumar said, “Someone (recently) called from the high court, saying ‘we have not been able to go to the district level and you have gone to the tehsil level’.”

With this system, all 24,19,035 cases in UP’s 2,179 revenue courts are available online with their judgments in a searchable database. “Every single case that comes up for hearing is updated every day,” the revenue board commissioner said.

According to Kumar, the cases are updated through RCMS by presiding officers and technical officers present in every court in UP. The technical officers have to login into RCMS every day from their respective courts and update information of the cases with the help of presiding officers.

So, what does it entail? “If you now have your case number, or the last date of hearing, or the parties involved (A vs B), you can find online all information related to your case. It is a searchable database,” Kumar added.
Pointing out that the online version does not provide a certified copy of the court judgment but gives the applicant information about the case result, Kumar said, “Statistically, applicants appeal in (only) 20 percent cases. For that, they can get certified copies of judgments from courts. It reduces stress on the court as well as on citizens,” he said.
 
Procedural glitches
While the system seems to be up and running, the real issue is getting the technology process into the system.

Mayank Pandey, senior programmer, technical division of revenue board, Lucknow, said the system is running successfully in most courts. “Of the 2,100 courts (in the state), about 1,900 log in properly,” he informed.

State wide area network (SWAN)connectivity, is another issue. According to Alok Kumar, “Sometimes we have 20,000 to 30,000 cases listed (for the day) in (different) courts. It is a large number and though officials update the local servers, it does not reflect on the central servers because of poor SWAN connectivity at the tehsil level.” He said connectivity issues at the tehsil-level SWANs arise out of several reasons – electricity outages or link connectivity issues, among others. Giving one instance, Kumar said the coverage is poor in Bakshi Ka Talab in Lucknow district because the tehsil is located in a “shadow area”.

According to Kumar, while the web-based application for revenue court cases does not face much problem, the problem is severe for updating the ‘khatauni’ (land records), which is also done by the revenue board but not through RCMS. There are 2.5 crore RoR  (records of rights) accounts which have 7.5 crore account holders in UP.
“Every change in RoR generates a huge volume of data that needs to flow,” he said adding that in such situations officials record the information on a CD and send them to Lucknow, where the central servers are located. “This process takes about 35 days, and is a glaring problem for RoR record updation,” he said.

Digital future
To overcome the delay in record updation due to poor SWAN connectivity, the revenue department migrated from a two-tier system to a three-tier one on July 30. “The government of India has sanctioned '9 crore for the project,” he said. “This new project would need software and hardware updation. We want to reduce the delays from 35 days to 15 minutes.”

He also said that going forward, digitally signed copies of court judgments would also be made available online. “We are working on a software through which this can be made possible, just as the digitally signed RoRs are available (online),” Kumar said.

Once digitally signed copies of judgments are online, a person would not have to go to the court for a certified copy. “Instead the system will help citizens download copies of a judgement at the click of a mouse from anywhere,” he said.

According to Kumar, the department also plans to connect the sub-registrar office with the RoR database. “With this, land records can be updated from anywhere. Also, people anywhere would be able to take a look at their land records whenever they want,” he said.

A software for this is in the testing phase right now and the department also plans to digitise maps – called shajjra maps – of villages in UP and make them GIS-enabled. The digitisation work has already been done for the districts of Mathura, Barabanki, Jaunpur and Ghaziabad. The department hopes to select the service provider to handle the project by the end of August or early September.

Once the digitisation process is over, the revenue department will begin the process of resurveying and resettlement to update the data on maps. “The first phase of resurvey and resettlement of five districts would be done by the end of this financial year,” Kumar said.

In other plans, the department is looking at integrating the revenue court and khatauni with mobile SMS so that applicants can get SMS notifications regarding their cases. It is also in the process of standardising the categories of court cases such as disposed cases, current presiding cases, and so on.

Revenue department courts technology
WHAT
•    All 24,19,035 cases in UP’s 2,179 revenue courts are available online

•    The judgments are in a searchable database

WHY
•    People can check dates of their last hearings, the next hearing dates, orders last passed, and the final judgments online without going to the court – as was necessary earlier

•    Has broken monopoly of ‘peshkar’, or the court reader, who had all the information, and one had to mostly bribe him to get even basic details

HOW
•    Cause list – or the list scheduling cases to be heard by courts the following day – for every revenue court in UP is uploaded on the Internet every day

•    Cases are updated through revenue case management system (RCMS) by presiding officers and technical officers present in every court

This story first appeared in Magazine Vol 05 Issue 15(01-15 Sept 2014)

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