Virtual hearings remain as part of judicial system- Tengku Maimun

14 Jan 2022 01:16pm
Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said remote hearings, introduced as a means to cope during the pandemic, will remain.
Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said remote hearings, introduced as a means to cope during the pandemic, will remain.

PUTRAJAYA: Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat today said remote hearings, introduced as a means to cope during the pandemic, will remain.

The top judge said there is no question of 'reverting' to physical hearings as the norm.

She said virtual courts have now become an indelible aspect of the country's system of advocacy.

"I say 'indelible' because some have queried when and whether the judiciary will be 'reverting' to physical hearings as the norm.

"I wish to make clear that the judiciary has always embarked on technological advancements, and online or virtual hearings mark progress in this direction," she said in her speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2022, here, today.

She said the advent of online hearings was not merely a means to cope with the pandemic, but a permanent feature of the justice system.

Related Articles:

"There is therefore no question of 'reverting'," she added.

Tengku Maimum said when the pandemic first began in March, two years ago, the courts were forced to proceed with online cases on securing the consent of both parties, subject to the interests of justice, as there were no clear permissive legislation stipulating that online hearings or trials are allowed at the behest of the court.

Now, she said, the Parliament has affirmatively intervened to expressly allow for online hearings irrespective of consent but subject still to the interests of justice.

She said there was no room for dispute as to the propriety of the method given that this shift is not unique to Malaysia.

She also highlighted the crucial change in the law through the newly inserted Section 15A of the Courts of Judicature Act (CJA) 1964 which allows both civil and criminal proceedings to be conducted through a remote communication technology.

Meanwhile, she said Section 3 of the CJA defined 'remote communication technology' as a 'live video link, a live television link or any other electronic means of communication', which has a very broad definition.

Consequential amendments, she said were also made to the Subordinate Courts Act 1948 signifying that the continued reliance on remote hearings in the subordinate courts, in addition to the superior courts, will subsist irrespective of the pandemic.

"We as judges have adjusted well to remote hearings at least in the context of civil cases, criminal applications and criminal appeals. The screen-sharing technology, we find, assists us with reference to documents and the level and nature of advocacy has improved irrespective of whether counsel before us is senior or junior.

"We also think that remote hearings have made life easier for lawyers who have been relieved from having to waste time on travel," she said.

Tengku Maimun said she acknowledged that remote hearings are not perfect as there are sometimes issues with sound, internet connection and such hearings are sometimes not feasible when parties do not have the requisite means or access.

Regardless the overall gain and accessibility that remote hearings bring with them, far outweigh their downside which can be worked on, she added.

She also thanked the legislature for passing the laws that made it all the more possible to conduct online hearings.

"I would like to acknowledge that the past two years under the pandemic has been difficult for all of us and how we wish that we could revert to the life before the pandemic.

"That said, every crisis has its silver lining and the lining here is the greater strides we have all made to advance access to justice to a higher level," she said.

More Like This