Governance · Law · Public Policy

Initiatives to Save Paper: The Supreme Court Way

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Most people are unaware of the fact that the paper and pulp industry is the 5th largest industry in the world. A full 4% of the globe’s energy goes towards making paper products. Even less talked about is the fact that making one ton of paper wastes more precious water than creating a ton of any other product in any other industry. A single sheet of paper may seem like an insignificant thing, but the use of thousands of sheets each day can have a huge impact on the environment. That’s especially true in schools, where students and teachers and other staff all use lots of paper.

The underlying problem

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The problem starts when trees are cut down, which hurts both forests and the animals that live in them. Cutting down forests even affects the earth’s climate, since trees absorb carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The lumber is turned into wood pulp, which is then transformed into paper. This process releases many harmful chemicals into the air and water. Often, paper is bleached with chlorine, which produces some very harmful substances. The most dangerous is dioxin, which builds up in soil and water, where it’s taken in by plants and animals. At each step in the food chain it becomes more concentrated. So people who eat food contaminated by dioxin may wind up eating significant amounts of this chemical, which can cause severe health effects, including cancer, a weakened immune system, hormonal changes, and neurological problems. Finally, once the paper has been made, it becomes a huge waste problem. That paper takes up valuable space in landfills, while the ink can pollute local rivers and streams. And, of course, when we don’t recycle it, new paper has to be made from still more trees.

As we have seen that this seemingly insignificant thing can cause hullabaloo in our environment, we need to look into the problem and the areas where the paper consumption can be decreased.

Initiative by Supreme Court: Suggested Areas for Reduced Paper Consumption

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The recent announcement by the Chief Justice of India constituting an Advisory Body to develop a national vision and strategy to effectively use modern technology to enhance the judicial system in the country has given birth to a new idea in the realm of administration of justice i.e. adjudication through the e-courts. A typical e-court will enable litigants to file documents through e-mail and also pay the court fees through the Internet. It will enable electronic service of documents through e-mail to the parties. This will help to decrease the amount of paperwork.

In such an environment, authentication of electronic records will be done by affixing digital signatures. Notice of hearings will be intimated by e-mail, not by unnecessary posting of summons on papers and counsel for the litigants will be in a position to know beforehand the workload of the judges by accessing their electronic diary. Courtrooms will be completely computer-integrated with imaging software to capture paper documents and the proceedings of the case including counsels’ arguments will be captured on digital cameras and will form part of the record. This will in turn help to reduce the consumption of paper which is lost in writing description of court scene.

The Supreme Court’s home page should be linked with the home pages of the various High Courts through a wide area network (WAN). This will facilitate e-mail communications among the judicial fraternity and will also make it easy for the courts to access each other’s judgments with ease. Those willing to do so may file documents electronically using digital signatures to the courts. Further, a secure connection is essential to link all the High Courts in the country. Every High Court should have a home page wherein all judgments and orders of the court can be instantly uploaded as and when they are delivered. In cases where appeals are made to it, the Supreme Court can automatically download the judgments from the High Courts thus saving paper work and also the need for the litigants to submit judgments on other orders of the judgments appealed against.

What Can Be Done at the Local Level

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When it comes to paper, the three ‘R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle are especially important. Some things which can be done at local level are:

  • Get double duty out of your writing paper: Use both sides of the page in your notebooks and when you use scrap paper.
  • Print single spaced: Single-spacing your documents uses half the paper.
  • Use the back side of paper: Save Paper
  • Recycle paper: When both sides of the paper have been used, don’t throw it out — recycle it. The rules and methods for recycling differ from area to area, so it’s important to find out what materials can be recycled and how they should be sorted.
  • Buy recycled paper: When you buy notebooks or notebook paper, choose paper that has been recycled and made without chlorine bleach.

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  • Use alternatives to paper: Sometimes it’s possible to skip using paper altogether. Maybe your teacher can use the blackboard or bulletin boards more. The school/university/office could post some notices on a bulletin board instead of sending them to every teacher/staff, or use the public address system more often.
  • People in the school office could stop using cover sheets when they sends faxes, and use email when possible.

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  • Buy paper made without chlorine bleach: It’s also important to avoid paper that has been bleached with chlorine. The paper a school uses should have either a PCF (processed chlorine free) or TCF (totally chlorine free) label.
  • Make recycling easy by setting up folders or bins: If one is going to recycle, one needs a place to store the used paper. This will not only remind everyone to recycle, but also make it more convenient. The areas near copy machines and printers are good spots. Putting recycling containers near regular garbage cans also encourages people to keep paper separate from trash.


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We can think of numerous areas where we can reduce paper consumption beyond the above stated ones. It could be for an example the use of electronic cheque books, or electronic invoice which has already been adapted by e-shopping firms like ‘flipkart’. If each one of us pledges to take a step daily and consistently, it will definitely lead to the suppression of the environmental agony spread by us. It’s high time we should realise that we can’t destroy the place where we live in.

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About the Author

SanyaSanya Darakhshan Kishwar is a student of B.Sc. LL.B. Hons., pursuing her five year integrated course from Central University of Bihar. She loves to spend her leisure time in going through books on law and works of Shakespeare. She also has a special interest in reading Case Laws and keeping herself updated. Currently, she is interning at the Model Governance Foundation.

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