Sunday, May 25, 2008

Courts to be just an SMS away
If there is any institution in the country that is most conventional in its working style it is the judiciary. But this institution is now all set to take a giant leap towards modernization.
In its most recent move, the judiciary has come up with an IT plan that proposes to make the Supreme Court in the first phase and other courts in second phase just an SMS away from service seekers.
Officials at the Supreme Court said those seeking justice will not have to come to court all the way from different parts of the country just to receive general dates and the hearing schedules for their cases; they can get these right on their mobile phones as SMS.
If they do not have mobile phones, they can get the dates and schedules at their respective district courts even if the cases are under adjudication at the Supreme Court.
"If the plan is approved by the Full Court, then a person from Jhapa or any other place in the country will not have to travel all the way to Kathmandu for general dates and hearings dates; they can get the dates right at the district court or on their mobiles," said Dr. Ramkrishna Timalsena, registrar at the Supreme Court, speaking about the new IT plan at the judiciary.
The plan designed by Dipak Timalsena, IT chief at the Supreme Court, was presented before the Full Court on Firday, the apex policy-making body of the judiciary, for approval. Dr Timalsena told that the plan is expected to be approved very soon, most likely this week.
The new scheme will become possible once all the courts of law across the country are equipped with information technology and connected to the Supreme Court within one and half years, according to the plan being discussed in the Full Court. And once implemented, Supreme Court officials believe the plan will make justice delivery more speedy and less expensive.
Similarly, the plan envisages replacing the existing manual system of issuing general dates and hearing schedules, which is considered prone to corruption and bias, with software that automatically generates general dates and hearing schedules, reducing the chances of manipulation. The software then will send SMS to court users, with their general dates and hearing schedules.
IT chief Timalsena said that each appellate court has already been provided 10-20 computers and each district court five computers.
"Once all the courts are interconnected, court users will not have to come to the Supreme Court even to register their cases; they can register cases from a nearby court," added IT chief Timalsena.
Besides, the plan is also to make the judiciary paperless. "We have proposed that courts forward all the case files through IT, instead of the post office, so as to reduce delay in justice delivery," Timalsena said.
Dr Timalsena further added that the plan proposes to set up a toll free number at the Supreme Court so that court users across the country will automatically learn about their general dates, hearing schedules and court decisions.
In its bid to become high-tech, the Supreme Court has already been computerized and efforts are underway to connect the Supreme Court with other courts across the country, thereby rendering the judiciary ahead of other government entities in the use of information technology.
According to Timalsena, the judiciary plans to use IT even to serve subpoenas and to correspond with the Office of the Attorney General on matters of justice delivery, a move that is also likely to reduce delay.
To discourage judge-shopping, Supreme Court officials have proposed in the plan that parties who want to defer their hearings will have to apply online a day before the hearing date. At present, parties are allowed to postpone hearing right on the day of the hearing, something that has led to judge-shopping and is a matter of concern for the judiciary.


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