When UNDP first supported the digitization of the attorney system, little did we know that the Government would take the task forward with such keenness, affording it so much priority. This focus has taken court processes in Nepal to a new height altogether, and made for a great example of how, with Government interest and ownership, innovative new projects can be pursued even after donor support has retreated.
The e-attorney system basically works across three aspects: case management, asset management and cause-list management—through the use of specified software systems designed to streamline and simplify tasks within these areas. This has resulted in ease and accuracy when it comes to the registering, compiling and updating of information, reducing both time and effort spent in different court procedures. We are further engaged in utilizing this electronic service for archiving documents and transferring them to foreign countries as required. This has been incredibly transformative in making information readily available online and more specifically in speeding up service delivery.
In the beginning, there were some evident constraints as the reforms were operationalized. For instance, some government lawyers found it daunting to familiarize themselves with these new, modern digital tools, and it was also difficult to rely completely on online communication owing to disruptions and other problems with internet service. There were also issues of imbalances between the workload and the human resources devoted to those aims, which led to some obstructions in updating data.
Despite these challenges, the advantages of the transition to an online system were difficult to deny: the fact that we no longer have to rely on the presence of personnel to access past information; the relative ease with which monitoring and evaluation can now be carried out; improved work efficiency; and overall sustainability of the system.
This was enough to convince the Government of Nepal, leading it, in 2017, to invest a sum of Rs. 40 million on the e-attorney system. The funds have been well-utilized to install the necessary hardware and software, along with conducting training campaigns. The Government’s confidence in the initiative and willingness to support its continuity was a real achievement for us.
Another important incentive is the sense of being part of an important change in the country, a long-overdue move towards modern tools and techniques, and the benefits they offer. Motivated thus, we have been engaged in stabilizing the reforms in such a way as to properly integrate human resources and physical infrastructure, and we expect that within five years’ time, we will prove one of the most efficient public administration offices.
Our work is gaining momentum to the point where a single tracking system will be sufficient for investigating a case from the time it opens to when it is filed, prosecuted and closed in the Supreme Court. Our work would have been even more strategic had police officers and the apex court administered simultaneously rather than the Supreme Court monitoring and handling everything on its own. Following digitization, we are in the process of connecting our online data with that of the Supreme Court, thereby enabling public access and creating more room for transparency. So far, over 200 lawyers in the use of the digital system and additional training schemes are underway to acquaint all lawyers with the reforms. This would not only help us provide people with improved access and justice, but also distinguish us as a systematic, trustworthy and strong institution.
About the Author
Shyam Kumar Bhattarai is Head of Planning Division at the Office of the Attorney General. He will be one of the presenters at the Conference on Technology for Public Services being organized on 21 March 2018 by UNDP Nepal in partnership with the National Innovatin Centre, Nepal Entrepreneurs Hub, Robotics Association of Nepal, Karkhana, Nepal Communitere, NAST/GoN, FNCCI/Innovation Hub, Ministry of Science and Technology.