‘Courts Should Acknowledge Technology’
‘The necessary inquiries on logistics and availability of suitable equipment had not been carried out by the plaintiff’s solicitor.’
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.
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.
Participants of the Fiji Law Society Annual Convention from left: Siddharth Nandan, Swastika Narayan, Ramesh Prakash, Isireli Fa.