Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
PEOPLE living with disabilities have called on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to set up systems that will enable them to access the integrated electronic case management system (IECMS) without hindrance.
IECMS is a web based system that automates court processes. The e-filing system, which is being rolled out in two phases, will result in all courts across the country going paperless.
JSC has started implementing the first phase of the IECMS.
The filing of court cases, pleadings, processes and documents in the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and Commercial Division of the High Court is now being done electronically through the IECMS platform.
Under the IECMS court procedures are expected to be expedited while minimising direct human contact at certain stages of the process, thus eliminating opportunities for corruption.
IECMS automates and tracks all aspects of the case life cycle, from initial filing through disposition and appeal.
According to JSC, IECMS is a centralised data management system that will transform all courts into paperless and full automation.
The JSC, in this 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, adopted a motion to digitalise the country’s justice system through the introduction of IECMS.
The IECMS is a digital system that seeks to take full advantage of the benefits of flexibility and automation of court processes which foster efficiency, transparency and improved access to justice.
Speaking on Friday at the Gwanda Provincial Magistrate’s Court during an open day, Mr Pick Nkomwa from Nkomwa Foundation Trust, a disability organisation based in Gwanda said the existing court system had many loopholes when it came to people with disabilities.
The day was held under the theme “Transformation of the judiciary through digitalisation of courts”
“The judiciary is still not inclusive and as people with disability we fear that with this digital system we might be left out even more. There is need for systems that will ensure that people with disability can access the IECMS. The gadgets being installed in various courts should be inclusive and disability friendly. Let the new system consider all different disabilities. Provisions should be put in place to cater for people with disability at court site to access the electronic gadgets,” he said.
“Are there systems that are in place to ensure that people with disability can access the e-filing system and also make follow ups on cases online. If the judiciary is going to be transformed through digitalisation of courts then people with disability shouldn’t be left out.”
He said access to courts should not only be limited to addressing physical barriers but also staff attitudes.
Mr Nkomwa said some people living with disabilities were struggling to access court services because of the negative response they were getting from staff members. He said there was need for staff to be trained on how to handle people with disabilities and to be equipped with basic skills such as sign language.
“People with disabilities have been and still experiencing some difficulties in accessing the right to justice. Cases of people with different disabilities take long as some services won’t be readily available such as sign language. I strongly encourage and plead with JSC authorities that they uphold the inclusivity mantra as they roll out this programme. The mass media campaign on this transformation should be done in all communication formats to cater for everyone,” he said
Also speaking during the event head of the Judicial Training Institute of Zimbabwe, Dr Rosalie Kumbirai Katsande said JSC was making significant efforts in eliminating barriers faced by people with disability hence last year’s open day was held under the theme “Breaking barriers for people with disabilities”.–@DubeMatutu