Technological development in the field of information has a brought a sea change in all spheres of human activity. It has resulted in enhanced proficiency, productivity and transparency and has also reduced red-tape and corruption in organisations.
The judicial system is also modernising its system by subscribing to new tools of technology. All over the world, systems are moving towards e-judiciary. This is not only happening in Europe or the US or Asean countries, but also in under-developed countries like Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh.
Pakistan has started efforts to modernise its judiciary. Our justice system lags behind in the utilisation of technology in judicial department. The first step towards modernising the judiciary has been taken by the Islamabad High Court and the Lahore High Court by introducing an online case management system; out of this the IHC case management system is more advanced.
Mobile applications have been launched which will allow lawyers and litigants to get updates about cases on their mobile phones. These app users will be able to search for cases using individual case numbers, party names, respondent names and names of the advocates.
Users will also be able to check the daily cause list. This will not only facilitate lawyers and litigants, but will also ease the workload on clerical staff. Such an online case management system should also be introduced by the high courts of other provinces.
However, officials of the judiciary should be mindful that the online case management system is not the end, but rather the start of the journey towards an e-judiciary system. Further steps should be taken to use technology in the modernisation of the judiciary.
Another phase should be introducing e-courts in Pakistan. An e-court is a fully automated and digitalised court. Every activity is computerised. Trials can be conducted online via Skype. Witness depositions can be typed by computer operators and their veracity can be checked at the same time by counsels. Cases are electronically filed. Hence, e-courts will transform the whole court procedure.
The other step should be digitalisation of the entire case record room. Records can be computerised and cases allotted tracking numbers for tracking online. The current procedure of copying a case file is lengthy and risky. Similarly, the current process of copying case files involves physical movement of files from one office to another – which can impact the sanctity of the file and is time consuming as well.
In a fully automated system, computers would eliminate the need to send a file physically from record room to copy branch. This will also help stamp out corruption and encourage transparency.
Reforms only work when there is greater public involvement. For this purpose, an ombudsman should be appointed in the Supreme Court; this ombudsman should collect and resolve citizens’ complaints vis-à-vis the e-judiciary system. Citizens can file complaints to the office by hand or via email. After receiving a complaint from the ombudsman office, liaison officers can resolve the problem or provide an explanation within the allotted time.
All over the world, legal practice has become more technologically advanced and Pakistan’s judiciary need also to join this technological progress. The aim of the National Judicial Policy 2009 was also to eliminate corruption and delays from the country’s judicial system. The use of IT in the courts was recommended to help achieve these objectives.
It is high time we introduced an e-judiciary system in the entire country. This will not only stamp out corruption from within the judiciary, but will also improve in our justice system. Most importantly, e-judiciary will increase the efficiency and time management of our justice system.
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.
Email: taimursinbox gmail.com