Some lawyers have quizzed the Judiciary on the practicality and effectiveness of a K1.2 billion (£1.5 million) newly introduced electronic case management system (ECMS) in improving access to justice in the country.
The lawyers expressed their pessimism with the system on Thursday during a two-day orientation of legal practitioners on ECMS that the Judiciary organised in Lilongwe to offer the lawyers in-depth understanding of the project.
ECMS is a European Union (EU)-funded project which introduces an automation on the registration and tracking of cases.
Commenting on the development, private practice lawyer Pempho Likongwe wondered whether the sharing of information between the Judiciary and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will not be misconstrued as collusion aimed at diverting the course of justice to the disadvantage of the accused.
Similarly, Malawi Law Society (MLS) honorary secretary Khumbo Soko feared that the system could be subjected to cyber attacks, thereby putting the safety of case files at the mercy of criminals.
He further observed that a shortage of registrars in the judicial service will create “chaos and mayhem” in the operation of the system and the whole judicial system in the end.
However, Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Dunstain Mwaungulu, who is ECMS project coordinator, allayed the fears, saying the system will allow the Judiciary and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to share information relating to various cases filed with both the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Said Mwaungulu: “The sharing of information between the Judiciary and DPP will only be at registration and confirmation of cases.”
He also assured that the security and safety of documents will be guaranteed as the system will be using the virtual private network (VPN) which is accessed by only those with permission to access it.
“Some of the benefits and objectives of the system include improved registration, administration, improved online access to service information for all court users and increased efficiency of judicial and prosecutorial staff,” he said.
ECMS was designed to streamline judicial processes and ease access to the courts by ordinary Malawians, but in The Nation of August 18 2016, MLS said the system has encountered problems due to lack of equipment and connectivity challenges.
As a result, MLS said, it is taking too long to file court documents, a development the body said is infringing on people’s access to justice.
The computerised case management system is a multi-billion kwacha project funded by the European Union (EU) meant to ease pressure on the Judiciary, by reducing case backlogs.