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Judicial System Stuck in Slow Lane, Modernization Efforts Fall Short



Judicial System Stuck in Slow Lane, Modernization Efforts Fall Short

Each year, the Finance Minister promises to modernize the judicial infrastructure and improve the efficiency of the justice system in the national budget. The 2024-2025 budget is no exception. However, despite these repeated promises, the reality on the ground tells a different story, where basic dysfunctions and shortcomings continue to haunt the Mauritian judicial system.

The e-judiciary project, announced over a decade ago, is still stuck in its pilot phase and struggling to take off. Initial issues such as accessing WiFi, effective digital recording, or functional phones are still not a reality in some courts.

The e-judiciary project is often touted as a way to digitalize the sector, but it has been met with little success.

Currently, it only concerns the commercial court for e-filing documents, but even that has failed miserably.

Once documents are uploaded online, everything comes to a halt, and lawyers and advocates are forced to physically attend court to deposit their motions and check on their cases.

It is legitimate to question whether the progress and projects currently underway are sufficient to truly modernize justice and make it more accessible to all.

Outdated Tools

There are also basic issues that hinder a modern justice system in this country. The digital recording system in our courts appears to be an outdated tool from another era.

Once cases are recorded digitally, they must be sent to the transcription unit, which then listens to the recording and translates it into written words on paper. This process would take at least three months, and in some cases, much longer.

Are we aware of the number of cases that have been sent back because transcriptions were not ready?

If the National Assembly can have a transcription system that allows parliamentary works to be available to the public within two days of the sessions, why can’t the judiciary have a similar system to accelerate court proceedings and eliminate delays?

No WiFi Connectivity

While the Finance Minister touts efforts to modernize the judiciary, a disturbing reality persisting in some district courts: no WiFi connectivity.

This paradoxical situation raised fundamental questions about the true extent of this modernization promised.

In several district courts, judges and magistrates are forced to rely on personal hotspots to access the internet.

Adding to this problem, the outdated computer equipment, and it’s clear that case management is not only slowed down but also contributing to a backlog of pending cases.

Outdated Phones

Furthermore, it is troubling to note that in some courts, phones do not function properly.

Several individuals have reported difficulties when trying to contact an officer of justice for information.

Phones are often out of service, and no email address is available for submitting requests for information.

As a result, litigants are forced to physically visit the court, reminiscent of the 1990s when everything was done on paper and in person.

Even magistrates are subjected to outdated administrative procedures. To request leave, they must send a letter by post to the responsible person, who would respond by letter as well.

These archaic practices are in stark contrast with the ambitions of modernizing the judiciary.

Monday and Thursday Court Days

In district courts, Mondays and Thursdays are dedicated to formal matters. During these two days, all day is spent ensuring the presence of accused individuals and confirming whether they accept or reject the charges against them.

For officers as well as court users, this represents a total waste of time as these days could be better utilized for hearing cases.

A more modern and efficient way of managing bureaucratic work would be necessary to optimize tribunal operations.

Despite annual budgetary promises of modernizing courts, reality is showing that the judicial system struggles to adopt basic technological solutions.

For the judiciary modernization project to take off finally, these fundamental problems must be resolved and announced investments actually implemented.

The road to a modern and efficient justice system in Mauritius appears long and fraught with obstacles yet.

Source: l’Express

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