‘Courts Should Ac­knowl­edge Tech­nol­ogy’

‘The nec­es­sary in­quiries on lo­gis­tics and avail­abil­ity of suit­able equip­ment had not been car­ried out by the plain­tiff’s so­lic­i­tor.’

Fiji Sun - - Suncity - SHAHANI MALA Edited by Maraia Vula Feed­back: shahani.mala@fi­jisun.com.fj

Chief Jus­tice An­thony Gates in­tends to is­sue a di­rec­tive to en­sure a trial on pro­bate mat­ter is held at a High Court near to those who have filed for pro­ceed­ings. He said this at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Fiji Law So­ci­ety’s An­nual Con­ven­tion at the Pearl South Pa­cific Re­sort in Pa­cific Har­bour on Fri­day. “As you know pro­bate mat­ter are filled cor­rectly and only in Suva,” Jus­tice Gates said. “That does not mean that the con­ve­nience of lit­i­gants, wit­nesses and coun­sel are to be ig­nored and that trial can­not be held at a High Court closer to where they re­side.”

Chief Jus­tice Gates said sev­eral ques­tions have arisen over this. “Ap­pli­ca­tion can be made in the Suva High Court, for in­stance, for a trial of such an ac­tion for the rea­sons I had given, to be held in Labasa and Lau­toka.

“I shall be is­su­ing a Prac­tice Di­rec­tion on place of trial for such mat­ters so that this mat­ter is clar­i­fied,” he said.

Re­gard­ing Skype, the Chief Jus­tice had ear­lier re­jected an ap­pli­ca­tion for ev­i­dence to be pre­sented by Skype. He did so be­cause the wit­ness had not stated in her af­fi­davit why she could not be present in court to tes­tify in sup­port of her writ.

The nec­es­sary in­quiries on lo­gis­tics and avail­abil­ity of suit­able equip­ment had not been car­ried out by the plain­tiff ’s so­lic­i­tor. The Court over­seas said they would not all their premises to be used for the pur­pose of the Skype tes­ti­mony. “Of course it is nec­es­sary to move with the times. Tech­nol­ogy is here to as­sist if men and women of com­merce use it daily and make sub­stan­tial de­ci­sions in re­liance on it,” he said.

Chief Jus­tice Gates said the courts should also be able to ac­knowl­edge such tech­niques and use them with cer­tain safe­guards.

“I hope to is­sue a Prac­tice Di­rec­tion on the court of trial in Pro­bate mat­ters and on the use of Skype in the court. “In the early days sound qual­ity was not al­ways of the best, but it ad­vanced our method­ol­ogy.”

Chief Jus­tice Gates said grant­ing ac­cess to the court was an im­por­tant con­cept.

“We must as­sist in the elu­ci­da­tion of claims by ev­i­dence, for and against and avoid putting im­ped­i­ments in the way of a full hear­ing of the is­sues,” he said.

Ex­tra Court Sit­ting

Chief Jus­tice Gates said: “Gone are the days when the Supreme Court sat ev­ery 18 months.”

“This year, with an ex­tra sit­tings listed in June, there will have been four sit­ting, the last sit­ting of the year be­gin in Oc­to­ber. “Court of Ap­peal is even more stress­ing,” he said. Chief Jus­tice Gates said the de­mand for an op­por­tu­nity to chal­lenge a lower court de­ci­sion whether Mag­is­trates Court or High Court is grow­ing.

“Var­i­ous op­tions will be con­sid­ered.

“Above them all will be the con­sid­er­a­tion to keep in mind what a small coun­try like Fiji can prop­erly spend on such rights,” he said.

He also said all court de­ci­sions to be pub­lished on a web­site.

Change

Chief Jus­tice Gates said: “Prac­tis­ing law is not what it was 40 years ago, as a few of us can tes­tify to. “Me­di­a­tion is com­ing to Fiji as it has al­ready come to other coun­tries.

“It brings re­lief to many per­sons in dis­putes who frankly can­not af­ford to lit­i­gate. “There are many other rea­sons why me­di­a­tion should be rec­om­mended,” he said.

He also stated that ju­di­ciary will con­tinue to fi­nance the train­ing of mem­bers of the Bar in me­di­a­tion.

“Me­di­a­tion pro­vides a swifter, cheaper rem­edy and keeps busi­ness­men still trad­ing to­gether.

“It can quickly patch up dif­fer­ences, with fam­i­lies over wills, in fam­ily court mat­ters, and even big cor­po­ra­tions. “We have to learn to put ego aside, to re­spect and re­pair hurt, and try to po­si­tion the par­ties to fo­cus on their real needs rather than knock­ing the other lit­i­gant off the branch,” he said.

Photo: Shahani Mala

Par­tic­i­pants of the Fiji Law So­ci­ety An­nual Con­ven­tion from left: Sid­dharth Nan­dan, Swastika Narayan, Ramesh Prakash, Isireli Fa.

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