To address the barriers impeding people from getting justice, Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has advocated for the full adoption and utilisation of digital tools, particularly among Commonwealth member countries, to enhance access to justice and its delivery.
According to the Vice President, beyond the basic problems of infrastructure, facing many justice delivery systems, time and space have been key impediments to access to justice.
“The belief in every citizen that they have rights equal to every other citizen, that their lives, properties, and happiness cannot be arbitrarily taken away by another, no matter how powerful, is the consideration for the consent of individuals to be governed. In that sense, depriving even one citizen of justice is tantamount to pulling another tile from the delicate domino pack that is modern society, he stated.
Dr. Bawumia who was speaking at the 19th triennial conference of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA), further noted that beyond the basic problems of infrastructure, time and space have been impediments to access, to justice.
It is in response to this that he opined that the advancements in technology have made it possible to perform tasks remotely, without requiring physical presence.
“We can reduce the man hours required to perform any task; super-charge the efficiency of institutions and empower individuals at all levels of society. It would be criminally negligent to ignore the latent power we have and allow the situation to fester where our courts are clogged, citizens are frustrated and justice remains out of the reach of many.”
The Government of Ghana, he assured, is fully committed to ensuring that justice is available to all through the effective use of digital tools. Even before Covid-19, the very much digitalization of our courts was well underway.
“We now have virtual courts for our citizens, an electronic case management system, and a Justice For All programme that leans heavily on digital technology to expedite the cases of prisoners held on remand beyond the constitutional limit,” said.
Government, through the Ministry of Communications and allied agencies, he reiterated, will continue to support the Judicial Service to leverage technology to improve access to justice in the country.
The President of CMJA, Justice Charles Mkandawire, acknowledged that too many barriers have denied citizens access to the courts, which could be attributed to a host of other things including system, procedural, financial, physical and casual barriers, among others.
He was optimistic that the conference would provide the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to address these challenges confronting the judicial systems in the current times.
On his part, the Chief Justice of Ghana, Justice Anin Yeboah, said judges, magistrates and justice officials have to ensure that all citizens can have justice.
“In these tense times, citizens across the Commonwealth and other parts of the world must be assured that there is an avenue for them to have their grievances properly addressed in a way that is fair, equitable and just,” he said.
Also, he said while the judicial service is determined to have modern court infrastructure around the country, it has discovered that it could use technology to realise the broader objectives that can be achieved by more and large buildings.
The conference attracted over 300 delegates and guests from 46 jurisdictions from all six regions of the Commonwealth. It also included some 26 Chief Justices.