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KIRAN CHAPAGAIN

KATHMANDU, April 25: Noted for its delayed and lengthy working style, the judiciary is all set to use information technology (IT) in the courts across the country for dispensing justice in speedy, hassle-free and cost-effective manner and for controlling judge-shopping and irregularities rampant in the country´s justice system. Justice Anup Raj Sharma, who is the head of the IT Committee of the Supreme Court, said that IT developed by the Supreme Court itself is ready for operation and is awaiting an official launch. First, IT has been designed in such a way that allows courts across the country to exchange files and orders in a matter of few minutes via the intranet provided by Nepal Telecom. Court officials said this technology will substantially cut the time courts spend in sending files and orders from one court to another. Till present day postal service, which is rather slow and ineffective, is used for the purpose. For this, the Supreme Court is providing scanners to every courts so that they could digitize the documents and dispatch them to courts via the intranet, according to Deepak Timalsena, the main architect behind IT development at the Supreme Court. Court officials and judges said they have not been able to dispense cases speedily partly because it takes much time for them to get hold of the case files and the rulings of other courts. Though the existing laws require the Supreme Court and the appellate courts to decide cases within six months, they have not been able to meet the deadline. According to a study by the Supreme Court, the apex court and the appellate courts are taking on an average one and a half years to finalize a case and the number of backlog cases is rising every year. The backlog cases in the Supreme Court alone stand at 12,965. Second, court officials said IT will save court users´ time and money as users will no longer have to travel long distance for general and hearing dates. IT allows courts users to get their general and hearing dates from the nearest courts of their choice and comfort. For example, once the technology becomes operational, a court client from Jumla whose case is at the Supreme Court will not have to travel to Kathmandu to get his general dates and hearing dates. The existing age-old legal requirement needs court clients to travel all the way to concerned courts away from his/her nearest courts for general dates and hearing dates making the justice system expensive and full of hassles. IT, as Timalsena said, will also facilitate courts to check judge shopping, – a major problem – in the country´s judiciary, by court clients. Judge shopping is a deliberate effort by clients or lawyers to choose judges in expectation of getting desired judgment. But the new system does not allow clients to defer their cases more than twice. It is normal in the judiciary to defer cases as many times as one wishes, in a bid to shop judges.” “If one tries to defer scheduled hearings, the software does not allow this more than the allotted two times,” Timalsena demonstrated. It is common to hear complaints from court users about irregularities by court officials while issuing hearing dates.But the technology does not allow human manipulation and checks possible corruption in issuing hearing dates by court officials. The Supreme Court plans to connect 50 courts across the court via IT in the first phase. Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri has already directed the court administration to adopt IT as early as possible. Apex court officials said they plan to launch IT system amidst an official function soon. kiran@myrepublica.com