E-court system in Pakistan
In a country where civil suit cases can take up to 25 years and on an odd day can reach up to 70 years, e-court system is a step in the right direction. Supreme Court of Pakistan in a landmark decision launched the e-court system on 9 May 2019. Being a success story in countries like the US, UK and Singapore e-court can help the judicial system of Pakistan speed up its process of dispensation of justice.
To a naive mind, the judicial system currently operational in Pakistan seems to be a rotten machine as it ranked at 130 out of 139 around the world. The world Justice Projects Rule of Law Index 2021 report shows that Pakistan is among the lowest ranked countries in its adherence to the rule of law, ranking 130th out of 139 nations. Areas covered here are; (1) Constraints on Government Powers. (2) Absence of Corruption. (3) Openness of Government. (4) Fundamental Rights. (5) Order and Security. (6) Regulatory Enforcement. (7) Civil Justice. (8) Criminal Justice.
This might be a case why the citizens lack trust in one of the most important organs of the state. Those in the system take it like a well-oiled machine but consider the delayed justice and long proceedings aspect the primary reason for the under-performing of the judicial system. Another flaw with this system is the high opportunity cost of the time it entails for those seeking justice. E-courts can help fill the gap left by conventional courts through the digitalisation of courts and reforming the legal system in a way that is both inclusive and effective.
E-courts using the existing information and communication technology would bring a transformation change in the way justice is dispensed. For a developing country like Pakistan capitalising on the spread of mobile technologies to improve access to justice with the help of information and communication technology will modernise the judicial mechanism.
E-courts with the facility of e-filing can make the legal procedure smoother. Furthermore, it would make the entire process more cost-effective. Paper documents had a high probability of misplacing and in some cases; the whole room containing legal files would turn to ashes before the hearing of cases. So e-filing would make the whole system more transparent.
For speeding up the whole judgment process e-hearing can be introduced in e-courts. E-courts can have video link connectivity from jail to court and witnesses to the court can be presented before the judge via Skype. Lahore and Islamabad High Courts have launched Court Management System (CMS) and mobile applications to get their e-courts at par with the international standards. A judicial norm of our system merits those who spent most of their time in the courtrooms and completely ignore the new blood.
To make the system more inclusive, e-courts can facilitate and protects both litigants as well as legal practitioners. In recent times, the Apex Supreme Court has installed a video link system, where lawyers can argue from any Supreme Court Registry branch across the country at provincial capitals, after filing an application to heat effect. Islamabad High Court (IHC) also introduced the facility of designated e-courts at both splits of ICT`s (Islamabad Capital Territory) subordinate judiciary, i.e. East and West, where courts upon application of the counsels can help recording of evidence through video link, though not all proceeding of trials are covered here yet.
“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a well-known legal maxim. Most of our legal practitioners are making a travesty of this maxim. In our legal system delaying a legal procedure or taking a stay is considered a trademark for a competent lawyer or a successful litigant. E-courts by speeding up the whole judgment process can be a game-changer in this regard. Furthermore, it can break the monopoly of black-sheep groups and make the judiciary an organ that responds to the woes of its citizens.
E-courts as said can prove to be a very fruitful way of the dispensation of justice. As technology is growing with each passing day, e-courts will make it easier for every citizen of the state to avail of justice. It will make the judicial system fast and transparent. Furthermore, it will make it easier for the citizens to trust the judicial process. Precedents will be available to all the citizens and people’s trust in courts will increase.
Through e-courts, the government can also save a huge sum of amount. Spending on legal proceedings will decrease and the sum spent on infrastructure can be transferred to make the e-courts more speedy and operational. It will also create job opportunities for skilled workers.
In short, e-courts in Pakistan will be a game-changer in the dispensation of justice. It will decrease public spending. End the trust of citizens in state’s judicial system will boost.