May 27, 2019 marks a milestone in the judicial history of Pakistan. It’s when the Supreme Court has started hearing cases via e-Court — a system based on video-link connectivity. A three-member bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa himself, initiated proceedings of cases through the e-Court system. For the first time, lawyers of Karachi, whose cases were fixed for hearing at the SC’s Karachi registry, argued their cases through a video-link and the bench at the principal seat in Islamabad heard and decided the cases. History is thus made.
For our courts, clearing the backlog of cases has proven to be quite a task. According to official figures, about 1.9 million cases have been pending with more than 250 lower, special and superior courts. Of them, the top court has to deal with some 40 thousand. The use of technology will serve to address this perennial problem by way of discouraging adjournments which have become a sort of norm in our judicial system. Adjournments are sought and granted conveniently, often on trivial grounds like the counsel is busy before another court or in a bar election, and hearings are postponed with little appreciation of the fact that it wastes state resources and time of concerned stakeholders. While the need to regulate delays for reasons like non-appearance of counsel is still there, the introduction of e-Court will encourage the legal fraternity to plead their cases without delays.
The facility is helpful for both lawyers and litigants in several ways. It provides convenience to lawyers who can pursue their cases while remaining in the cities where the court’s branch registries are situated. It is also beneficial for litigants who will not have to take the pains of travelling all the way to Islamabad to take part in court proceedings. So all in all, the e-Court is a step in the right direction that goes well in line with the agenda of structural and systemic changes that the honourable chief justice had set himself.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2019.
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