Since Covid-19 has hit the country hard, lots of changes have taken place in the lives of folks both personal and professional and virtual court hearing is one of them having introduced by UNDP in collaboration with the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. It is considered as a new era in the judicial system in Bangladesh. As judicial system has been functioned manually since British period, it will take time to adjust with replacement of the system. Though having approved by government during lock down period, the idea to digitalise court hearing is not a new one. ICT division of the Government of Bangladesh has undertaken a2i (Access to Information) project in the year 2007 in this regard. Website ( dld.com.bd) and mobile app have been developed under this innovative project. Moreover, practicing lawyers in Supreme Court also campaigned for digitalisation of court hearing since many years. It is observable that Supreme Court has developed their own website since many years having updates of their enterprises. However, impediments happen with advent of virtual court system but the nature of such impediments is not impossible to tackle.
On May 9, 2020, honourable president has promulgated the new law regarding e-judiciary titled ‘Usage of Information and Communication Technology, 2020’ which validates virtual presence of witness inserting provision in section 3. Government had taken a remarkably quick decision by promulgating the Act. In observing the relevant Acts regarding court procedure, it is noticeable that The Evidence Act, 1872 is generally followed for the purpose of examining witnesses and taking evidences in both civil and criminal matters. Mr. Justice Mohammad Imman Ali, honourable judge of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, while opining on e-judiciary stated that the existing Evidence Act in Bangladesh is required to be amended to determine evidence taking procedure in virtual courts. It is ambiguous that how long the pandemic situation is going to be stayed and so, it is also uncertain on the part of virtual courts. It may happen that courts will return to its old traditional form (actual courts) after ending of lock down. Mr. Justice Mohammad Imman Ali suggested that the experience of the current situation can be utilised in establishing semi virtual courts in future. Generally, the corporate law chambers work on semi virtual manner. So, the same can be adopted in courts.
The most highlighted obstacle as well as challenging factor in case of virtual operation is the poor internet connection. Lawyers appearing for submission often state complain that the court procedure does not go smoothly because of poor internet connection. Uncertain load shedding is another issue worth to be highlighted. People belonging to suburbs may not be familiar with digital devices. All these matters constitute great difficulty. Van Nguyen, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP stated that countries like Brazil, UK, China, Singapore has adopted virtual court hearing from quite few years and those countries faced the same challenges in the beginning. Problem like power cut, poor network connection were met by the countries in the starting stage of virtual court system. There is nothing unique about Bangladesh. If those foreign countries can overcome the obstacles, then Bangladesh can also accomplish so. People need to have patience as the problem cannot be solved over night.
Online based app known as ‘Zoom’ has been greatly recognized since the beginning of lock down period. Conferences, seminars, workshops even classes are held using this app. People couldn’t imagine in the past years that such activities will take place using online app but now they have no other option than that and they have embraced this spot as a new normal. Similarly, the concept of virtual court will also be adjusted among people with transitory of time period. People always deserve some time to become habitual of a newly generated idea. For further example, online media like Facebook, Twitter, Skype etc were not used to be existed in the beginning of independence of the country. But today we are living in an era where these online media are considered as essential part of people’s regular lives. Like this, people involved in legal field are going to be constant with the e-judiciary system. The purpose of launching this digital system is to prevent backlog of cases in this pandemic period rather than pending the cases till end of the situation. It should always be understand that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.