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Electronic courts, or e-courts, are locations where matters of law are adjudicated upon by qualified judges, using a well-developed technical infrastructure1. E-courts can offer many advantages over traditional courts, such as increased efficiency, accessibility, transparency, and cost-effectiveness. In this narrative, I will explore some of these advantages and provide examples of how e-courts have been implemented in different jurisdictions.

Img One of the main advantages of e-courts is that they can improve the efficiency of the judicial process. E-courts can reduce the delays and backlogs that often plague traditional courts, by allowing parties to file and access documents online, communicate and exchange information electronically, and conduct hearings and trials remotely. E-courts can also automate and streamline some of the administrative tasks that consume a lot of time and resources in traditional courts, such as scheduling, case management, record keeping, and payment processing. By using e-courts, parties can save time and money, and judges can focus more on the substantive issues of the cases.

Img For example, in Canada, the Federal Court has implemented an e-filing system that allows parties to file documents electronically with the court via a secure, Internet-based system, in all areas of the court’s jurisdiction2. The e-filing system simplifies the filing process by providing step by step directions and help options throughout the application. The system also assigns a unique filing identification number to each submission, which facilitates inquiries about the status of the filings. The Federal Court’s Covid-19 Practice Direction provides guidelines regarding the format of electronic documents and exemptions from filing paper copies2.

Img Another example of e-courts improving efficiency is in India, where the e-Courts Project was launched in 2005 to provide ICT (information and communication technology) enablement of the courts. The project aims to provide online services such as case status, cause lists, judgments, orders, court fees, and e-filing, to litigants, lawyers, and judges. The project also aims to digitize the court records and provide video conferencing facilities for remote hearings and trials. As of March 2021, the project has covered 3,240 courts across the country, and has enabled the disposal of more than 13.5 million cases through e-courts.

Another advantage of e-courts is that they can enhance the accessibility of the judicial system. E-courts can make justice more available and convenient for parties who face barriers such as distance, disability, language, literacy, or socio-economic status. E-courts can enable parties to access legal information and services online, from anywhere and at any time, without having to travel to the court premises, hire lawyers, or pay high fees. E-courts can also provide tools such as online dispute resolution (ODR), which can help parties resolve their disputes amicably and quickly, without going through the formal court process.

Img For example, in the United Kingdom, the Online Civil Money Claims (OCMC) service was launched in 2018 to allow individuals and businesses to make and respond to civil money claims of up to £10,000 online. The service guides the users through the process of making or responding to a claim, and provides them with information and support along the way. The service also offers an ODR platform, where the parties can negotiate and settle their disputes with the help of an online mediator. The OCMC service has been praised for its user-friendliness, simplicity, and speed, and has achieved a high satisfaction rate among the users.

Img Another example of e-courts enhancing accessibility is in China, where the Internet courts were established in 2017 to handle cases related to the Internet, such as e-commerce, intellectual property, online contracts, and cybercrime. The Internet courts allow parties to file cases, submit evidence, and attend hearings online, using their smartphones or computers. The Internet courts also use artificial intelligence (AI) to assist the judges in analyzing the evidence, verifying the identities of the parties, and generating the judgments. The Internet courts have been hailed for their innovation, convenience, and fairness, and have handled more than 3.1 million cases as of June 2020.

A third advantage of e-courts is that they can increase the transparency of the judicial system. E-courts can make the court proceedings and decisions more open and accountable to the public, by providing online access to the court records, judgments, orders, and statistics. E-courts can also facilitate the participation and feedback of the stakeholders, such as litigants, lawyers, judges, and civil society, in the design and evaluation of the e-court services. By using e-courts, the public can have more trust and confidence in the judiciary, and the judiciary can have more opportunities to improve its performance and quality.

Img For example, in Australia, the Federal Court of Australia has implemented an e-court system that allows the public to access the court documents, transcripts, audio recordings, and judgments online, through the Commonwealth Courts Portal. The portal also provides information on the court rules, procedures, fees, and forms, as well as links to other relevant websites and resources. The portal also allows the users to provide feedback and suggestions on the e-court services, and to report any issues or problems they encounter.

Img Another example of e-courts increasing transparency is in South Africa, where the e-Justice Strategy was launched in 2014 to modernize and transform the justice system. The strategy aims to provide online access to the court information and services, such as case management, document management, electronic filing, electronic payment, and electronic service of process. The strategy also aims to establish an integrated justice system, where the different justice sector institutions can share data and information, and collaborate effectively. The strategy also aims to monitor and evaluate the impact and outcomes of the e-justice initiatives, and to report them to the public and the stakeholders.

In conclusion, e-courts are locations where matters of law are adjudicated upon by qualified judges, using a well-developed technical infrastructure. E-courts can offer many advantages over traditional courts, such as increased efficiency, accessibility, transparency, and cost-effectiveness. E-courts can benefit the parties, the judges, the lawyers, and the society at large, by making justice more available, convenient, fast, and fair. E-courts have been implemented in different jurisdictions around the world, with varying degrees of success and challenges. E-courts are not a replacement for traditional courts, but a complement and an enhancement of them. E-courts are the future of justice, and the future is now.

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