Namibia: E-Justice Debuts in Namibia

Computing

Windhoek — Judges, legal practitioners and staff members of the Office of the Chief Registrar of the Superior Courts are in the process of user-testing the new e-Justice system to be introduced soon.

The new system to be used in civil matters in the High Court is being developed by a company called Crimson Logic from Singapore in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice. During the official opening of the training/user acceptance session, Judge President Petrus Damaseb said the new system will effectively cut out the cumbersome process of manual filing of civil proceedings. The system is designed to boost efficiency and enhance the professionalism of the legal community, according to a statement issued by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme and High Courts of Namibia, Elsie Schickerling.

The new system will allow litigants and the judiciary to file civil court documents and manage case activities in civil litigation electronically. "Manual generation of cause lists and maintenance of diaries in civil litigation will be eliminated, enabling legal practitioners to synchronize their schedules with the judiciary's hearing system via an e-Calendar," Schickerling further explained. The new system will automatically route work-in-progress cases to the designated judicial users based on progression thereby creating greater transparency. "In short," the statement read, "e-Justice is the first step in transforming the Republic of Namibia's existing paper-centric structure in the superior courts to a transparent, efficient and electronic legal administration."

Complete use of the e-Justice system will be available to registered users only, which users must be admitted as legal practitioners in Namibia, but limited information will be available to non-registered litigants as long as such non-registered litigants have the correct case number of the case in question. The first e-Justice user acceptance testing was scheduled for the period 10 to 14 February 2014, during which period a selected group of users, consisting of the Judge President, judges of the High Court, staff members of the Office of the Registrar and legal practitioners would have had the opportunity to receive training on the functionality of the e-Justice system and subsequently to test the procedure in matrimonial cases in the High Court. The user acceptance training sessions are geared towards gauging the functionality and compliance of the system and to evaluate and sort out glitches.

The system will only be implemented at the main division of the High Court with the northern division to follow later. While many legal professionals New Era spoke to professed ignorance about the new system, all were in accord that it is a step in the right direction. Prominent human rights lawyer, Norman Tjombe, applauded the Ministry of Justice for "a bold step." He said with technology so advanced, where the usage of cellphones and computers have become the norm and not the exception e-Justice is a welcome step in the right direction. "The introduction of the e-Justice system in Namibia is most welcome. With the increase of the communication systems' bandwidth and with the fields of information and communication technology application expanded in almost all directions, and the courts with their litigation and other services, would not have escaped the evolution and revolution of information technology that the world experienced over the last 20 years," Tjombe said.

He further said there is no democracy without a system of swift and transparent justice. The introduction of new systems in the High Court will allow a decrease both in time and the number of pending processes; increase the efficiency of the services provided to society, and hopefully reduce the prohibitive costs of litigation. "I hope that the e-Justice system of the High Court will soon be replicated to the lower courts all over the country, and to the rest of government functions and services," Tjombe said.