Pandemic and e-courts
BECAUSE of pandemic today we need to keep social distances to save our lives. Pakistan is one of the badly pandemic hit country.
Hundreds of thousands of people interact in police stations and courts on daily basis through out the country.
A dominant majority of is poor, unprivileged and illiterate. They even are unaware of seriousness of the pandemic. They travel on public transports.
To avoid catastrophic situation we need to interact with maximum possible physical distance in the crowded places like hospitals, bus and van terminals, markets and courts ets.
To avoid such situation in our courts we need to opt an e-judicial system and digitalization of entire mechanisms.
Hundreds of the honourable judges and their thousands of the judicial personals daily interact with millions of people across the country. Because of the pandemic many of the Judges are suffering from Corona ailment.
In such situation either the courts be closed for quite some time or system be transformed into e-courts and digitalization.
An e-court means a location in which matters of law are adjudicated upon, in the presence of honourable Judges and which has a well-developed digitalised and technical infrastructure.
An e-court is, different from a computerised court. In the case of e-court, everything is done in an online environment and through other information and communication technology, whereas a computerised court is nothing more than a court having computers and basic level hardware and software.
The e-court is about providing information and communication technology so as to enable courts to make justice delivery system affordable and cost-effective.
This would be beneficial for both improving the court processes and rendering citizen-centric services. E-courts are aimed to make legal processes easier and more user friendly.
In an e-court, the entire work is executed digitally, wherein, the information that is shared and generated is stored as a database and synched to a particular software. This software can be accessed by litigants, judges and advocates.
The primary intention of e-courts is to make the justice delivery system affordable, transparent, speedy and accountable by limiting the paper filings.
The key advantages of establishment of electronic courts will bring justice serving mechanism transparent, efficient, affordable and time saving.
It protects the interests of witnesses, reduces the backlog of pending cases and most importantly reduces the number of unscrupulous activities.
An e-committee of the Supreme Court should finalise the work related to e-courts supervised by this worthy committee.
The e-courts should be conceptualised on the basis of the national policy and action plan for implementation of information and communication technology.
It will ensure transparency and speedy proceedings. In advance countries e-courts are successfully working without any difficulty.
We just need to make the people technology literate. The e-committee should be formed under the chairmanship of the honourable Chief Justice.
The federal cabinet should duly approve and pass the e-courts with computerisation of the judiciary. The current way of court proceedings is centuries old based on papers and ledgers.
It should be launched with the objective of improving access to justice with the help of technology.
The phase one should provide upgradation of infrastructure in the Supreme Court and High Courts to enable hardware and software to cover all the districts and subordinate courts across the country.
Phase two, should be aimed at setting up of centralised filing centres, digitisation of documents, adoption of document management systems, creation of e-filing and e-payment gateways.
There is lack of awareness about the potential of e-courts among judges as well as public at large.
The security of e-courts infrastructure and system is of paramount importance. User friendly e-courts mechanism, which is simple and easily accessible by the common public will encourage litigants to use such facilities.
The government should make efforts in the training of personnel to maintain all the e-data.
These include maintaining proper records of e-file minute entries, notification, service, summons, warrants, bail orders, order copies, e-filing, etc.
The e-courts also require the executive and the judiciary to reaffirm their resolve to support a speedy, efficient and quality justice delivery in the country.
It is also important to discuss steps required to surmount the various challenges facing the justice system.
Solutions that will address the challenges such as inordinate delays in disposal of cases in courts, facilitating access to speedy resolution of commercial disputes by economic operators, making the justice system user friendly and affordable to all and improving the quality of legal aid services in the country would be imperative to drive the functioning of e-courts.
Establishing e-courts can bring transparency and accountability in the judicial system as they can bring a lot more judicial reforms while helping in dealing with the long pending cases. Because of e-courts targeted murders and terrorist acts also be avoided.
So much so the honourable Judges will also be avoiding illegal, unethical and indecent behaviour of so called lawyers.
E-courts Directorate be established on High Court level to ensure smooth sailing of the court proceedings.
E-courts will prove to be a major step in the evolution of country’s legal framework and most of all help in saving precious lives from the probable terrorist attacks and pandemic.
—The writer, based in Islamabad, is book ambassador, columnist and author of several books.