A new announcement provides for electronic civil court proceedings in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Under the Directive of the President of the Supreme Court on Electronic Court Judgements (the “Directive”), if the court deems it appropriate, or one of the parties tenders a request, the court may require proceedings to take place electronically. The Directive, which came into effect on 1 October 2020, outlines requirements for electronic hearings and the transmission and form of electronic court documents.
Electronic Document Format
Documents must be created in an electronic form that allows them to be accessible and retrievable without being altered, as under the Directive of the President of the Supreme Court on Submitting, Sending, and Receiving Pleadings and Documents through the Electronic Filing System (2017). In this way, the e-document will be considered as an original made in writing under the Civil Procedure Code. E-documents must also be maintained so as to preserve the integrity and accuracy of the electronic original.
If the court requires electronic proceedings, parties may not object to the witness testimony or other evidence solely on the grounds that they are in electronic form. However, attention will be given to the credibility and fidelity of e-documents, such as the method used to create, store, or transmit the data, the e-document’s preservation, the amount of times the document was altered, and so on.
If the parties are unable to submit or access documents in electronic form, they may prepare physical copies for use; however, the court may refuse to accept physical documents if there is no justification for not submitting them electronically.
Submission and Receipt of Electronic Documents
The court’s e-filing system, e-mail, and other electronic channels may be used to submit, send, and receive e-documents, as long as they comply with the Directive’s requirements.
When using electronic signatures, a party’s name will be considered as signed if:
1. The method used is reliable and appropriate for the purpose of transmitting electronic data and for the circumstances; and
2. The identity of the person and their intention to sign are both verifiable, either by the method used to sign, or through other means.
Electronic Civil Court Proceedings
If a court hearing may not proceed normally, the President of the relevant court may call for the hearing to be held online. The Directive enumerates a list of requirements that must be carried out or met when holding an online hearing, including access to relevant documents, collection of the attending court officials’ electronic traffic data, and the implementation of security measures to safeguard the confidentiality of the hearing.
Report of proceedings
Once the electronic report of court proceedings is read in the presence of the parties and witnesses, who are considered to be in the courtroom via online hearing, and all have followed court procedure, it will be considered as signed and acknowledged by all parties and witnesses.
Witness testimony and other evidence
The court may require witness testimony to be electronically documented and deliberated by the court. In this event, the electronic record must be able to be accessed, checked, and verified by the parties so that the court does not have to read the testimony back to the witness.
In the parties’ submissions to the court, any documentary or material evidence they wish to reference must be submitted in electronic form via the court e-filing system. The e-documents will be considered as or equal to originals. It is not required to send physical copies of the documents to the other party, unless they are unable to access the e-documents.
Again, where the law requires documents or evidence in writing, if the e-documents are made in such a way where they are accessible and used without altering the original document, the documents will be deemed to have been made in writing as under the Civil Procedure Code.
Judgements and Orders
Once the judgement or order has been pronounced and received electronically, it will require the signature of the presiding judge in an electronic format in accordance with the Directive. In doing so, the judgement or order will be considered pursuant to Section 141 of the Civil Procedure Code. The announcement of the court’s judgement or order must comply with Section 140 (3) of the Civil Procedure Code, unless the court sees otherwise fit.
Under the Directive, future developments include the provision of a system for electronic court proceedings and a secure database, while subsequent regulations will prescribe methods and conditions for parties to comply with the Directive. However, electronic civil proceedings will require adequate digital infrastructure and security measures, and will undoubtedly take time to implement.