Why Electronic Case Management is a game changer during coronavirus season and beyond

In Summary

•The electronic Case Management allows court users to interact and get service form the Judiciary through technology. 

The Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court.

Chief Justice David Maraga recently gazetted the Practice Directions to guide  Electronic Case Management.

Josphat Karanja, Judiciary’s Assistant Director of ICT, unpacks the Gazette and the reasons why the e-system is a game changer in the administration of justice.

Q: What does Electronic Case Management mean for Mwananchi?

A: The electronic Case Management allows court users to interact and get service form the Judiciary through technology. This can be achieved through a number of ways including submission of court documents, serving of court documents to other parties, tracking of the progress of a case, making court related payments and recording of court proceedings among other services.

For a long time, court users are used to coming to court with bundles of documents in support of their cases. The Gazettement of the practice directions gives the court users community the legal backing to use of technology. Going ‘e’ is a game-changer in speed and efficiency of court processes.

 

Q: Are you concerned that there could be technology resistance or slow uptake?

A: We don't expect resistance with this new initiative. Remember that as a country and a government, we are already using technology in many other areas including the renewal of driving licenses and filing of tax returns.

The Judiciary has also undertaken a number of pilot projects working closely with our stakeholders and we have a comprehensive change management programme in place to support the roll-out of the process.

Q: Why has it taken time to implement, since the CJ gave his ICT promise in 2017?

Although it seems we have taken time to implement,  a lot of work has been on-going since the launch of the Digital Strategy by teh Hon. Chief Justice in 2017.

The Digital Strategy has outlined the automation of the Judiciary in terms of five programmes, each with a number of projects. So far, we have connected 90% of the court station to the internet, upgraded the ICT equipment being used by our staff and rolled out a Case Tracking System.

These practice directions have been developed from the lessons learnt from the various pilot projects which have been undertaken in the Judiciary.

It was quite a journey and this is a phenomenal moment.

Q: How will serving suit papers electronically transform clients’ experience?

Here is where the rubber meets the road! In past years, if you sued someone, you were required to look for them physically and serve them with the suit papers. This has been a hindrance to justice.

Going forward, e-case management will allow you to serve the other party without having to physically look for them. The Judiciary is working with government digitization initiatives like Huduma Number where everyone has registered their basic profile and contacts (email, phone etc). We will use the system to both authenticate your identity and to get your contacts. 

The suit papers will then be sent to your email address, in some cases even on WhatApp. From there, as long as the system confirms you have received it, and read it, that will be deemed as adequate ‘service’!

 

Q: What if the person sued says they have not seen or received the suit papers?

A: The Electronic Case Management system has an inbuilt feedback and confirmation mechanism which provides proof that the communication has been delivered and received successfully.

As mentioned above, all court users will be required to provide working mobile numbers and email addresses as this will be the means of communication. As an example, once documents have been emailed to you, the system will also send an sms to alert you of the service.

Q: Can judicial officers ‘disown’ judgements and documents said to have be sent from them electronically?

A: This will not be the case as each judicial officer will be issued with a unique digital signature. The Practice directions have defined how the digital signatures will be used.

Once a digital signature has been used, it will be very easy to authenticate the signature in case there are doubts.

Q: Are there any e-security issues? Erasure? Crashing of computers?

The system has been built on a secure and redundant platform utilizing various technologies. The Judiciary also operates a secure data center service where all the information will be securely stored.

Q: Where would the Judiciary want to take e-case management?

A: Our vision is a completely paperless Judicial system which is citizen-centered. The Judicial processes should also be simplified so that they are convinite for the citizen. For example, automation of traffic cases in terms of what should be fined and the payment of that fine should be automated and this would lead to reducing the caseload in our courts.

Q: Will the digital transformation be instant in all courts?

A: The roll out will be phased out as the process is expensive and will require a lot of resources. We also have to due a lot of capacity building for the internal and external stakeholders. As I had mentioned, we are also working on improving the underlying court infrastructure including backup power in most of our court stations.

Josphat Karanja is the Judiciary’s Assistant Director of ICT