This is an institutional study conducted by the Department for Strategy Development of MoJ of Turkey.
Dematerialisation of Judicial Systems and its Applications in Turkey
Dematerialisation of Judicial Systems has appeared as a result of e-government practices, a rapid trend following technological developments. In addition to judicial services many other services provided by the public institutions to the citizens have been dematerialised through such practices and they are available electronically now. In this study, how much dematerialisation will affect the efficiency of judicial services will be discussed with references to the applications in Turkey.
Dematerialisation of the judicial services has reached an advanced point through National Judiciary Network Project (NJNP)1 developed by Turkish Ministry of Justice. Through this Project all judicial institutions in the country particularly including the courts, prisons, forensic medicine institution and the Ministry of Justice have been linked to one another through the electronic network.
NJNP is a significant part of the e-government practices and in this respect, it has not only established communication in electronic environment between the judicial institutions but also integration has been established with other e-government practices. The system is connected to many applications of electronic environment such as police offices, title deed offices and the civil registration system in matters which concern their mandates. Therefore, exchange of information among the public institutions which was carried out physically previously can now be conducted electronically. This has ensured more efficient and effective means of providing judicial services.
Another important contribution of dematerialisation of Judicial Services is the facilitation of access to justice. Concerned parties can have access to basic information about their cases on the internet without any limitations. Through another application by the NJNP, people, legal entities and lawyers can learn about basic information about their cases through text messages sent to their mobile phones. This practice won European e-government award in 2009. On the other hand, judges, public prosecutors, attorneys and other judicial personnel can carry out all their transactions anywhere by using electronic signature. This enables lawyers to litigate without having to go to the courts and the judges and other personnel to work at home in emergency cases. It will be possible to provide this service to everyone and all institutions in the future.
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing “within a reasonable time”. Dematerialisation of judicial activities conducted by judicial institutions has a significant accelerating effect on this process. Through NJNP in Turkey, all required information is obtained from other public institutions electronically. The Court of Cassation forwards its decision about a case file to the court of first instance in electronic environment. Also, prosecution offices and police offices too can serve necessary information through electronic networks. All these applications are significant steps in finalizing the disputes more rapidly.
On the other hand, there are critical views against the subject. The first is arguably the high costs. In addition to the fact that the electronic software used within the scope of dematerialisation of procedures is costly, the relatively short lifetime of such software poses a significant challenge to funding of these activities. This aspect is sometimes criticized in terms of economic use of resources. However, one point needs to be taken into account in bringing about an assessment with respect to judicial activities: “social benefits” take precedence over “economic benefits”. It should be appreciated that a judicial service delivered within a reasonable time and easily is often beyond financial considerations.
Another criticism is the issue of security of information. Judicial procedures involve use and processing of a lot of private information. The fact that this information is kept in electronic environment results in problems and doubts about security of information. Therefore, the security precautions of systems that provide dematerialisation should be very strict. Through the changes introduced in Turkey recently, for all transactions the users conduct over NJNP, it is obligatory to use electronic signatures. The aim is to prevent any external interference with the system. At the same time, robust protective software are included in the system to prevent any potential attacks from outside.
Through globalization, all means of communication bring people closer. In parallel to this, national judiciary systems become more involved in interaction. Turkey is progressing on the way to become a key actor in the international arena and thus is obliged to conform to the global standards of the judiciary system. Dematerialisation of judiciary services should be considered as an important tool for this purpose.
1 For further information see http://www.e-justice.gov.tr/