New Delhi, Oct 22: The Delhi High Court Thursday disapproved of the AAP government's "attitude" towards online registration of legal documents, saying it appeared to be "completely averse" to the idea and directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on why it has not been done till now.
"Your attitude appears to be -- we will do what we feel like," a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said after it was told that the Delhi government has not yet taken steps for online registration of legal documents, despite the court's suggestion to this effect on August 31.
"You are not doing online registration of legal documents at all. As we are doing online filing of cases, recording of evidence via video conference, we want you (Delhi government) to also move towards an electronic system. We want to reduce the human interface between your officials and the public.
"We do not want the public to go to the sub-registrar offices and stand in queues, especially during the pandemic. There are many other benefits also of e-registration," the bench said.
The court further said that if applying for passports, filing tax returns, submitting board exam forms by class 10 and 12 students, etc can be done online, and in all such cases the documents can be verified electronically/ digitally, "then why cannot the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi".
It directed that the highest official of the government -- the Chief Secretary -- should file an affidavit before the next date of hearing answering the points raised by the bench and keeping in mind its earlier orders in the matter.
With the direction, the bench listed the matter for further hearing on November 24.
The high court was hearing a plea, by advocate Gaurav Gambhir, claiming that sub-registrars in the national capital are refusing to register 'wills' and other documents of senior citizens, persons with co-morbidities and pregnant women by citing risk of COVID infection.
He had told the court on the last date of hearing, August 31, that Maharashtra, West Bengal and Haryana have started online registration of legal documents without having to go to the sub-registrar's office.
On August 31, the high court had suggested to the Delhi government to start at the earliest the online registration of legal documents, like wills, to minimise difficulties of public at large and minimise contact of officials with people during the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic.
Gambhir, in his petition, has sought abolishing of "the archaic procedures and to adopt suitable mechanisms for registration of documents through digital or other means to avoid contamination as a preparedness to COVID-19 like situations".
He has contended that senior citizens and others vulnerable to COVID-19 "are being unlawfully deprived and prevented from getting their testamentary and non-testamentary documents registered in the office of the Sub-Registrars in New Delhi on account of misinterpretation of lockdown guidelines".