The government had taken a plan to digitise the country’s overall justice system under the e-judiciary project but no visible progress of the Tk 2,878 crore five-year project has yet been made.
The plan of the e-judiciary system was taken some years back aiming to apply the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the judiciary to improve the third organ of the State. However, no significant progress has been made during this period.
As part of the plan, a project was taken to bring all the courts under the ICT network. The Tk 2,878 crore project will be implemented after it gets the the National Economic Council Executive Committee (ECNEC) nod. However, the proposed project was scheduled to begin in 2020.
An increased budget was also allocated for the law and justice sector in the 2020-2021 fiscal year in order to implement the e-judiciary project. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in his budget speech at that time had said that through the e-judiciary project, each court will be transformed into an e-court room.
Different offices attached to judicial proceedings such as police stations, hospitals and jails, and people concerned, such as investigators, witnesses, lawyers and accused persons, will be connected through the central network. The time and costs for the litigants will reduce after implementation of the project.
Observing the slow progress in implementation of the project, Advocate Farhad Uddin Ahmed Bhuiyan, a lawyer of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, on December 11 in 2019 filed a writ petition with the High Court, seeking its directives to set up e-judiciary and e-court rooms in all courts of the country.
After a preliminary hearing, the High Court on January 19 in 2020 issued a rule and sought information on the action taken by the government.
Talking to the Bangladesh Post on Sunday (September 19), the lawyer said that the High Court had issued the rule for bringing all the courts under the e-judiciary system. However, the process was delayed due to the Covid-19 situation and the government’s appeal for an increase in time.
In its latest move, the High Court on August 11 this year asked the government to submit the report within two months on the progress of establishing e-judiciary.
The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman delivered the order after hearing on the writ petition. Besides, the bench fixed October 20 for further hearing before passing order on the petition.
Advocate Farhad Uddin Ahmed Bhuiyan said that the proposed e-judiciary project should have been introduced earlier as the system has already been adopted in many countries. “We call upon the government to introduce the e-judiciary system as soon as possible,” he added.
The law ministry has undertaken the e-judiciary project to introduce digital system in judiciary, automate administrative system and trial process, establish e-court and boost ICT knowledge and efficiency of the judges, lawyers and officials concerned.
A total of Tk 2,878 crore were allocated for the five-year project from June 2020 to June 2024. The project was scheduled to begin in June 2020, but it has not started yet even after 15 months have elapsed.
A member of the Planning Commission said that they had received the draft of e-judiciary project from the law ministry for ECNEC’s approval. The Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) has sent back the draft to the ministry, seeking feasibility study and further scrutiny. However, the project will be placed in the ECNEC meeting after completing the necessary formalities, he said.
According to the law ministry sources, the data centre of the Supreme Court would be upgraded and a network operation centre would be established under the project. A total of 1,400 courtrooms across the country would be turned into e-courtrooms. A total of 2,000 tabs and laptops will be provided to judges, court record rooms will be automated, case records and verdicts will be preserved digitally, and a biometric attendance system will be established under the project.