Saud Bin Ahsan |
One of the main functions of law in society is the administration of justice. With democracy gaining strength in Pakistan, the role of law in the society as a means of social control has assumed tremendous importance. There has been a phenomenal increase in the number of cases pending in the courts and all this has posed a number of problems. One of the off-shoots of this development is an inordinate delay in disposal of cases; a development which is seriously jeopardizing administration of justice.
In the changed circumstances and with increased demand for good governance technology can provide solutions. However, technology in isolation has its limitations
The reasons of backlog and delays are diverse and profound, arising due to factors both inside and outside courts, and procedural lacunae. Consequently, it has always been the primary concern of civilized societies to address the issue of delayed justice with a view to find ways and means of removing deficiencies in the administration of justice.
Judicial Policy 2009
Being one of the salient features of Judicial Policy 2009, use of technology particularly automation was introduced in both superior courts and subordinate judiciary. The policy emphasized upon controlling the corruption and delays in the judicial system. One of the measures proposed in the policy for achieving these objectives was to use the latest computing and networking technologies “to check and monitor the cash flow and measure the qualitative and quantitative output of judicial officers” (p.36).
Holistic Enterprise Case flow Management System
In this regard, Holistic Enterprise Case flow Management System of Lahore High Court has been launched. Credit goes to Chief justice Lahore high Court Justice Mansoor Ali Shah along with Dr. Umer Saif, Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) as both have taken immense interest in this mammoth project of public interest. Case flow management includes case-disposal time standards, continuous court control of case progress, effecting calendaring and use of information systems to monitor age and status of cases, and control of post-disposal case events.
Courtroom technology has allowed advocates to be prepared beforehand as the information is timely communicated to them through automated cause lists and Short Text Messages on their phones
The Case flow Management system has enabled the Superior judiciary to simply log on and make use of the system without having to ask for manual reports. Trends, disposal, judges, district performances, all can be seen online. Even the backlog and their clearance, aging of cases are shown online. With the help of Case Presentation module, the filing process is made easy. The litigants need not go through the hassle of standing in ques and manual presentation of cases. The Advance Case Search (e-Kiosk) saves the litigants/advocates from going around the sections to find out the filing status.
The filing process is orderly and saves time and efforts of the advocates and court officials. Case information is known to everybody and statistics are updated on daily basis. Cases in scrutiny can be carefully examined for objections and delays. Cases are indexed in unique order by a system so that they are accessible anywhere.
As per PITB stats, LHC website has been approached by 180 million times and around 10,000 people have downloaded its mobile application by April 2017. So far 102,000 individuals called on 1134 helpline to know the status of their hearing, which vehemently endorses the acceptance of the automated system by the general public.
As a matter of fact and in spite of a grave situation, no concrete measures have been taken so far in order to provide foolproof protection to judges, prosecutors, and witnesses
As cause lists are generated automatically by the computer, manual intervention has been eliminated to a great extent resulting in the generation of cause list in time without any hassle. Cases are listed strictly in chronological order of date of filing, eliminating irregularities. All cases having the same legal points to be decided by the courts are grouped and fixed before one bench. This has helped the courts in faster disposal of cases. It has become simpler to recall dismissed cases when review petitions are filed. On the spot, reliable and instantaneous statistical reports are generated.
Advantages of the new technology to legal fraternity
Judges, prosecutors, and witnesses are often threatened and coerced. There have been incidents where prosecutors have been killed and individuals have been targeted in order to prevent them from testifying before the courts. In the absence of prosecutorial staff and oral evidence of witnesses, the courts are left with no option but to acquit the accused.
The limited facility of video conferencing in Pakistan as against a highly developed similar facility in the courts of USA has created a limited impact on the judicial dispensation. As a matter of fact and in spite of a grave situation, no concrete measures have been taken so far in order to provide foolproof protection to judges, prosecutors, and witnesses.
Even the backlog and their clearance, aging of cases are shown online. With the help of Case Presentation module, the filing process is made easy
At this stage, the innovation in courts is mainly focused on court processes automation. The use of technology has changed the dynamics in a courtroom in productive and helpful ways. For judges in Pakistan, technology has increased opportunities to control the proceedings, set time limits, and decide matters expeditiously.
However, judges have yet to develop confidence in scientific and technological pieces of evidence, visual imagery and web-based evidence. But again it is for the litigants and lawyers to convince the judge that a particular piece of evidence can be relied upon.
For lawyers, it has increased confidence in the court processes. Courtroom technology has allowed advocates to be prepared beforehand as the information is timely communicated to them through automated cause lists and Short Text Messages on their phones.
One of the main functions of law in society is the administration of justice. With democracy gaining strength in Pakistan the role of law in the society, as a means of social control has assumed tremendous importance
Judges with efficient monitoring through Court Management System are in a position to control the court proceedings with efficiency. The Court Management System in superior courts has addressed the issue of incessant adjournments as the judges can now see clearly the number of adjournments given in a particular case.
Read more: The streets of intimidation
Use of technology enables the courts to be efficient, effective and equitable. It can be a useful tool for improved access to the law, recording of court proceedings, case management and producing data for administrative purposes. In the changed circumstances and with increased demand for good governance, technology can provide solutions. However, technology in isolation has its limitations. There are various other factors that impede the process of good governance in Pakistan which if not addressed may not allow technology to reap its full benefits.
Saud Bin Ahsen is Post-Grad student of Public Administration at Institute of Administrative Sciences (IAS), University of the Punjab, Lahore and associated with a Think Tank Institute. He is interested in Comparative Public Administration, Post-Colonial Literature, and South Asian Politics. He can be reached at email@example.com