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15 July, 2020 08:30:39 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 July, 2020 08:51:43 PM

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E-payment system to boost virtual court operation

To make the virtual court more effective introducing digital payment of fees using mobile financial services (MFS) accounts are also required
Mazharul Islam
E-payment system to boost virtual court operation

The COVID-19 crisis has tremendously increased the usage of internet and accelerated the digitalization of many businesses and services including teleworking and video conferencing systems in different sectors. Just after the outbreak of the coronavirus, many countries having e-readiness have taken immediate steps to conduct judicial proceedings online.

Bangladesh has also started its journey of conducting judicial proceedings through virtual courts on 12 May, 2020.

In order to introducing virtual courts, the government has taken steps to formulate legislative framework and finally, on May 9, the law ministry published the gazette notification titled “Ordinance for Usage of Information and Communication Technology by Court, 2020,” after taking assent from the president. Besides, the parliament has taken initiative to turn the ordinance into an Act.

Undoubtedly the initiative of introducing virtual courts in Bangladesh is praiseworthy. To make this noble initiative more effective introducing digital payment of fees chargeable under the Court Fees Act, 1870, compensation and fines leviable under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1998 respectively using mobile financial services (MFS) accounts are also required. Otherwise, the objective of introducing e-judiciary will remain incomplete. It is reported that in the last 2019-20 financial year, a total income of Tk. 8116 crore 46 lac 12 thousand has been earned from the law and justice division under the Ministry of Law of which a major portion came from court fees.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Court Fees Act, 1870 was amended in 2016 making provision of collection of fees through electronically or digitally. According to section 25 of the Act, the government may appoint, in addition to scheduled bank, any MFS providers to receive court fees including fees chargeable for serving and executing processes issued by a certificate-officer in the proceedings in execution of certificates filed for recovery of land revenue or rent may be collected in cash or through electronically or digitally. In that case MFS providers who receive fees shall be required to grant a receipt or e-receipt accordingly. The Act also mandates the government to make necessary rules, from time to time, for regulating the collection of such fees through MFS. However, the provision has not been implemented yet.

It is high time to implement the amended provision of the Act as transactions through MFS accounts are increasing year-on-year, thanks to the rising acceptance of digital payments by private and public entities. Especially, MFS have seen a surge amidst this coronavirus outbreak and leading MFS providers have successfully disbursed the stimulus packages announced by the Government which include BDT 5,000 crore for payment of salaries of RMG workers and of BDT 1,250 crore cash assistance among five million poor families hit hard amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Bangladesh Bank, through MFS accounts there was average daily transaction of Tk. 1,425.34 and Tk. 1,283.39 crore in February and March this year respectively and total number of active MFS accounts have reached 26.845 million till March this year.

While proceeding in virtual court, lawyers are facing challenge in submitting court fees as these are not being punched as usual. Besides, the same court fees may be used in multiple petitions as the picture of such fees are shown to the court.

In addition to that the government may issue directives for collection of compensation, fines, stamp duties and registration fees through MFS which will definitely ensure more revenue collection for the government and reduce corruption as well. If such fees and fines are collected through MFS, litigants will be able to pay fees or fines relating to the suit or case easily avoiding travelling and extra hassle and the judiciary will be able to make its accounts more transparent.

While we cannot predict how long the crisis will last, when other things will look like normal, introduction of digital payment for collection of fees, fines or compensation would make the initiative of virtual court or e-judiciary more effective and successful.

Due to the seismic events unleashed by the pandemic, the world we will live in will be very different and our success will depend on how we live, how we work, and how we use technology. According to a recent McKinsey report, in this unprecedented new reality, we will witness a dramatic restructuring of the economic and social order in which business and society have traditionally operated.

During the outbreak of the pandemic, MFS has turned into one of the major tools of payment for individuals as most of the financial activities have gone online. Moreover, mobile phones are also becoming more accessible across the country and it is time to use these devices to boost the economy. According to the BTRC, the total number of Mobile Phone subscribers has reached 162.920 million at the end of April while the number of active internet connections has crossed the landmark of 10 crore this year.

Though the need for virtual courts only arose due to the unprecedented outbreak of the pandemic, the demand for e-judiciary is a long awaited issue. The law ministry had taken a project worth Tk. 2,690 crore to establish e-judiciary last year. Finally, the country's judicial system has stepped into an unprecedented phase through the ordinance, 2020 that might change it forever.

With the vision of Digital Bangladesh, a brainchild of the prime minister, the use of technology is currently reshaping every government level operation. It is expected that the government will take all necessary measures to introduce digital payment system through MFS accounts in the country's judicial system. Bangladesh Bank has to come up with necessary directives for MFS providers to ease the collection of revenues through MFS accounts.The Supreme Court may also come up with a short-term, mid-term, and long-term action plan to introduce digital payment system in all courts across the country and make virtual courts sustainable.

The writer is a corporate legal practitioner. E-mail: mazharkj528@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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