The Madras High Court has decided to stop printing and distributing cause lists with effect from January 1, 2020. Cause lists refer to the list of cases, scheduled to be heard by the court. The move is reportedly owing to the cost of printing the cause list booklets that are often sold to advocates at subsidised cost and to petitioners and journalists at regular rates.
In a statement on Thursday, M Jothiraman, the Registrar of the Madras High Court said, “I am directed to inform that the High Court, Madras, has resolved to discontinue the printing and distribution of the manual cause list through the Government Press with effect from 1st January, 2020. Further, the negotiations undertaken between the Bar and the State Government can be pursued by the Bar and it will be open to the State Government to extend any such facilities to the Bar including the finances to be incurred thereon without burdening the High Court any further in this regard.”
However, the Registrar informed that all four Bar Associations— Madras Bar Association, Madras High Court Advocates' Association, Law Association and Women Lawyers' Association— would be furnished with two hard copies each of the entire daily cause list of the Principal Seat of the Madras High Court.
The court has justified the decision, taken at a Full Court meeting, terming it an effort to ‘go green’. According to a press release issued by the court, “The All India Chief Justices' Conference held during the year 2015, resolved to dispense with the printing of manual cause list by all the High Courts. Following the said resolution, many High Courts have dispensed with the printing and supply of manual cause lists.”
The apex court stopped printing cause lists and made them available online in 2015.
The move, however, is being questioned by those who have regular business at court as well as journalists who report on the affairs of the court.
“A monthly subscription to the cause list costs Rs 600 for others while it varies between Rs 200 to Rs 300 for lawyers affiliated to the Bar. Naturally, the printing cost will be high since there are multiple courts hearing hundreds of cases on any given day. A booklet may run into hundreds of pages even on weekends or holidays. But the move to go fully digital must come with the appropriate infrastructure. Unlike the Supreme Court website, the Madras High Court website servers frequently give trouble. The site is glitchy and difficult to navigate,” says one social activist who regularly attends court.
A journalist covering the Madras High Court says that the daily cause list is an important way for the media to track cases. “High profile cases, often involving the government, are the ones we keep a close watch on. With an inaccessible website and multiple private apps we are forced to rely on, the flow of information will not be quick. Even when you specifically open the Madras High Court website, it takes you to the central cause list website for all courts where again you have to pick for either the Madras seat or the Bench in Madurai. With no option to key in petitioners, respondents or keywords, one has to manually look through the list. If these things are improved, going paperless is no issue,” he says.