The government wants to hold court proceedings online through videoconference because of the coronavirus outbreak, but experts say the courts lack the required technology and equipment.
Only the Sylhet District Judge Court has a fully fledged digital system because of the implementation of a 2017 project. No other court in the country has this system.
The law ministry said an app has been made to run lower court operations virtually. The app can be used in smart-phones. Others having laptops, tabs or notebooks can use the app to take part in trials through videoconference, which will open soon.
A few days ago, the government issued the "Ordinance for Usage of Information and Communication Technology by Court 2020".
The Supreme Court and the law ministry took an initiative to use technology in courts in 2017, and proposed allocating Tk2,000 crore for this. But it was not implemented because of certain problems.
The then Supreme Court Registrar General (currently retired) Sayed Aminul Islam told The Business Standard that technology could have been in use by now in all courts if money had been allocated in 2017, but the government did not approve the project.
He said the UNDP in 2017 funded some machinery in 2017 for digitalising court systems, but those have been abandoned and are getting out of order.
Aminul said the coronavirus situation would make digitalisation of court difficult.
"Bangladeshi cases require many documents and stamps. Case documents have not been digitised yet. So, those might be needed to be submitted earlier. It will take time if any document is needed for a hearing. This might create complications," he said.
Bikash Kumar Saha, joint secretary (admin) of the law ministry, said the Access to Information project of the Prime Minister's office is giving technology assistance to the Supreme Court for virtual court operation.
Lawyers initially will only be able to submit bail pleas and bonds. They have to go to mycourt.judiciary.org.bd and open an account to enter the virtual court portal. They can upload the main bail plea, vakalatnama and attached documents in three steps. No application fee will be needed for this.
"After lawyers submit an application, court officials will receive it for hearing. As per judges' approval, the lawyers will get a hearing date and a videoconference link in a reply email. The lawyers will do hearing through the link. After bail is granted, lawyers can use the same portal for bail bond submission," Bikash said.
Former president of the Supreme Court Lawyers Association, Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, told The Business Standard that the government's decision to operate virtual court in this time of corona is good.
He said several technologically advanced countries such as America are holding trials this way, but there are questions about its success in Bangladesh.
"No court in Bangladesh uses technology. There are questions about how they will manage it suddenly," he added.
"Because for virtual courts, digital application or bail bond is not enough. If other documents related to the case do not have digital versions, it will not work. The system to make case documents digital has not been established yet," he said.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said as required technology has not been made available in all courts of the country, only emergency bail hearings will be held through videoconference for now.
"We don't have experience of virtual court because it was not in our country before. But judges are being provided with special training. From that, they can conduct bail hearings and other case tasks on a small scale," he sad.
High Court division special officer Md Saifur Rahman said a decision has already been made to open three benches in the High Court and one in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
"The technology used in the Supreme Court now can be used to run a virtual court."