The Judiciary and Prisons should priotise e-court case management and not let down the creative virtual case management in the face of Covid-19 pandemic.
There is already a snag as reported, ‘Poor internet affecting court sessions’ (Daily Monitor, October 12, 2021). This standstill should be sorted out quickly, lest it denies the quick dispensing of justice.
This impasse should not undercut the fundamental rights of the parties involved in such cases.
Regrettably, some 100 such cases have been delayed for three months now because of poor Internet link up between Luweero court and premier detention facilities at both Kitalya and Kigo government prisons in Wakiso District, outside Kampala.
Yet, the introduction of this virtual court sessions through Zoom was well thought-out, especially in light of stopping the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. It also helped to make possible continuity of court cases during the lockdown, and also helped to limit physical interaction between the court-goers, judicial officers, and suspects, and also helped to cut down on case backlog.
This application of technology envisions, among several things, e-filing system and service of documents electronically, digital display devices, real-time transcript devices, and video and conferencing. Above all, it played a great role in seeing to it that service of justice was not delayed.
Going forward, the Judiciary and prisons authorities should move quickly to enforce what the law under Section 5 of the practice directive demands, namely that “in every judicial proceedings, court and the parties to the case may as much as possible use technology to expedite the proceedings and make them more efficient and effective.”
To sort out this impasse, the Judiciary and prisons across the country should do for upcountry courts, what they have done for the centre. They should build upon their recent interventions of installing a video conferencing facility between Buganda Road Court and Luzira Maximum Security Prison, for both the male and female wings, and the link up with both Kigo and Kitalya government prisons.
Finally, the Judiciary should quickly complete its Electronic Court Case Management Information System to “track case life cycle from initial filing through disposition and appeal, and …. ease filing of matters and all documents, reducing the need for physical contact in the court registries.”
This intervention would allow us beat the obstacles forced upon us by the pandemic and enable us access justice.
For Article 126(2) (b) of the Constitution provides that justice shall not be delayed, neither denied.