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Friday, 01 July 2022 10:53
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Building E-court - An important mission of judicial reform strategy in People’s courts

(PTOJ) - The accelerated growth of information technology today has paved the way for improving the efficiency of national governance and the enforcement of justice in the world. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the continuous development of digital technology have also profoundly changed the operation of courts. In that context, Vietnamese courts advocate promoting the application of information technology, utilizing the opportunities brought by the technological revolution to build electronic courts - one of the most important tasks of the judicial reform strategy in the People’s courts in order to improve operational efficiency and build a modern court as required in the Resolution of the 13th Party Congress.

Building electronic courts has become a global trend - Source: vov.vn

1. The perception of E-court

The essence of E-court is to transfer part of the court’s activities from actual space to digital space, in which the main focus is conducting, optimizing, and developing a number of activities on the digital platform: internal court governance; publicizing court operations; providing public judicial services to the people; supporting functions to improve the operational efficiency of judicial titles; connecting and exploiting databases of the national digital platforms; especially conducting electronic litigation activities.

Electronic courts bring great benefits to the courts, people, and society, namely:

First, increasing the court’s productivity. Many legal procedures carried out in the traditional way are costly in terms of time and human resources. Through a digital platform, those activities will be automated or processed online (from the stage of receiving the petition, case filings, until the end of the case). Thereby, it could increase the productivity of the court and save manpower and time. This is also the solution to partially overcome the difficulties and pressure when the number of cases increases continuously but the staff must be reduced according to the general requirements.

Second, assisting the judge in making an accurate judgment. Instead of having case files, looking up legal documents, and conducting procedures manually, E-court with the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data would help. Judges and court clerks could process files faster since it’s more convenient to look up relevant legal documents and precedents, as well as cases with similar legal situations. Artificial intelligence technology can even allow setting up a “Virtual Assistant” to effectively support judges in the research process to consult and make fast and accurate legal judgments.

Third, saving manpower, time, and costs. Instead of traveling to the court office during working hours, E-court facilitates people to exercise their procedural rights and obligations anywhere, at any time through a digital platform (submit petitions or provide evidence online...). People can also use services to look up judgments, provide assistances in analyzing and predicting procedural results... thereby deciding whether to sue or not, not wasting time, effort, and costs when there are lawsuits and disputes that need to be resolved by the court.

Fourth, humanely handle the special situations of the proceedings. E-court creates favorable conditions for litigants, witnesses, and lawyers to participate in the court trial despite epidemics, diseases, remoteness, economic difficulties... In particular, for cases of child sexual abuse, the children will not be summoned to the courtroom, all of their declarations will be conducted online to avoid direct contact with the accused and to ensure privacy and avoid further damage to children’s psychology, personality, and honor.

Fifth, higher transparency of court operations. Transparency is one of the attributes of trial. E-court will effectively support the transparency of all activities, progress, and results of the trial, creating conditions for people to monitor and supervise the court’s settlement process. It also affirms the credibility of the court with the people.

Sixth, increasing management and supervision capacity in the court system.

E-court will effectively support the management and direction of the Supreme People’s Court with the entire court system, or of the courts of higher level to those of lower level. Especially, it effectively increases the capacity to monitor the progress of cases within the court system, higher transparency and prevents negative phenomena.

Seventh, saving budget. E-court with strong application of information technology (IT) will help save budget considerably. According to experts’ calculations, the implementation of E-courts will save from 10% to 15% of court operating costs. The online organization of conferences, seminars, and training courses will facilitate higher participation of judges and court officials nationwide to exchange professional knowledge and improve professional qualifications without incurring travel costs, business trip expenses, time, etc.

2. International experience in building E-courts

Building electronic courts has become a global trend. International practice shows that many countries have focused on applying information technology to judicial activities and have accomplished great achievements in building E-courts (such as the US, Australia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China...). These countries have been regularly providing online administrative and judicial services, providing and receiving evidence online, virtual adjudication... instead of traditional legal activities.

Courts of different countries have deployed electronic procedural software with modern features to assist people in carrying out legal activities on a digital platform (from filing lawsuits, providing evidence online, till the trial is completed). The software also allows people to monitor the progress of court settlements, thereby increasing the convenience, trust, and satisfaction of the people. Along with that, the courts of other countries have also deployed intelligent procedural software to provide maximum support to the judge in the process of researching and handling the case (such as automatically creating case files; searching legal documents; creating legal documents yourself; serving procedural decisions; assisting in information verification; assisting in writing judgments...). In countries that have built a modern electronic court, it has helped reduce the time to handle cases by about 50%. Courts of other countries also fully utilize information technology achievements in the service of management, direction, and administration. A series of management software has been established and deployed, thereby helping the management in the whole court system to be smooth, timely, and scientifically. The modern features of the E-court have been strongly applied in personnel management and training for judges. Accordingly, all information of judges and court officials from the time they are recruited, appointed, promoted, and throughout their working process is stored and updated regularly to serve the management and evaluation of personnel.

Obviously, applying information technology and building electronic courts has become an irreversible demand and trend in all countries around the world. This is also an objective requirement of the judicial development process in the current context.

3. Orientation to build E-court in Vietnam

Building E-court towards enforcement and improving the capacity of court administration on the digital platform.

Building an electronic court to enforce court governance on a digital platform (system), thereby improving the efficiency of internal court administration. By applying digital technology, the court manages the following areas:

First, managing litigation activities. All procedural activities from receiving petitions, accepting case files, assigning cases, to completion of settlement and trial, will be automatically updated on the system. This system not only has the function of storing and tracking but also promptly gives warnings to help judges and administrators avoid the risk of violations and errors (for example, documents have not been served yet, proceedings or the procedural time limit is about to expire, the procedure time limit is violated...).

Second, managing human resources. All information about personnel from recruitment, appointment, throughout their working process will be automatically updated on the system. Develop and apply software to monitor and evaluate judges (based on a set of criteria for evaluating the quality of judges). Every 6 months or annually, this automatic monitoring platform will evaluate judges and send notices to leaders for management and administration. It will also be sent to each judge to let them know what level they are being ranked, what criteria have been downgraded, to have a plan to fix it.

Third, managing and storing records. All original records will be managed and stored on a large database of the digital platform, initially prioritizing the digitization of legal documents. Regular updating of archival records on a digital basis will help keep records intact in a long term, save manpower and material resources. Digital documents will play a decisive role in the management, analysis, and forecast using AI technology.

Fourth, training and fostering personnel. Information technology allows the online organization of conferences, seminars, training, and refresher courses in the court system, both helping to expand the participants and saving time and costs. The massive amount of knowledge stored in the E-court will also be a valuable source of material for the self-training and legal scientific research of court officials. Training can be carried out on a digital training platform, ensuring the criteria of productivity - quality - efficiency on a national scale for all staff and students in the court system.

Fifth, serving statistical work. Applying digital technology to serve periodical and extraordinary reports, analyze and process statistical data to meet the increasing requirements of management. The digital transformation process will form large data warehouses of the People’s Court, serving to summarize adjudication practices, detect legal loopholes, common violations, operating norms of criminals, and effectively evaluate the prevention of violations and crimes, saving time, human resources and bringing great efficiency.

Sixth, managing facilities, equipment, and finance in the court system to strictly manage in accordance with the law, promote effective use, and avoid waste, inappropriate use, or loss.

Building E-court providing public judicial services to better serve the people.

One of the important goals of E-court is to serve the people, providing them with modern, convenient, and economical public judicial services; especially the following types of public services:

First, send and receive lawsuit petitions, documents, and evidence; serve and notify court documents via electronic means. After completing the application, the system will provide a reception code for people and businesses to easily monitor the court’s handling and settlement process. The issuance, service, and notice of court documents can be done through personal electronic devices such as phones, computers... quickly and conveniently.

Second, register online for copies of judgments and documents in the case file. Accordingly, agencies, organizations, and people do not need to go to the court’s headquarters but can register to request a copy of the judgment and documents in the case file at any time and place.

Third, pay court fees and fines online. Through this system, people participating in legal proceedings can pay court fees and penalties online as prescribed by law or decisions in judgments without going to the State treasury.

Fourth, look up information about the case such as the notice of case acceptance; the decision to assign judges; schedule for opening court sessions; proceedings process; and other information.

Fifth, provide completed judgment for people to refer to and analyze similar legal situations to make wise and lawful judicial judgments and decisions. On that basis, exercising citizenship rights and obligations such as the right to initiate lawsuits, appeals, and denunciations, effectively participate in judicial supervision activities.

Sixth, provide legal consulting services. Applying artificial intelligence to build a “virtual consultant” to help people look up the legal system, answer questions about the process and procedures for resolving the case. Continue to develop other online public services of the court and expand online interactive channels for citizens to participate in, monitor court settlement and adjudication activities, as well as provide feedback to the court.

Building E-court to support judges to improve operational efficiency and quality.

Building an electronic court with a strong application of information technology and artificial intelligence to assist judges in making accurate judgments and reducing work pressure. After all, the quality of the court is determined by the judges themselves, so it is essential to improve the quality of their performance. Currently, the Supreme People’s Court has put into use “virtual assistants” to provide intelligent services to support judges. The virtual assistant acts as a private secretary, programmed with legal knowledge and professional expertise of the court, working 24/7 and always beside the judge, communicating with the judge in spoken language or writing through mobile phones and personal computers in a fast and convenient manner. Virtual assistants are expected to be a bright spot of the judiciary in the 4.0 era and an effective assistant for judges. The virtual assistant supports the judge through the following features:

First, introduce the relevant legal system to solve the case. Accordingly, the virtual assistant introduces the laws, ordinances, circulars, decrees... exactly to each article and clause of the legal document and the effective date of the document in accordance with the time of the case’s occurrence.

Second, introduce similar legal situations that have been summarized and answered by the judges of the Supreme People’s Court.

Third, introduce relevant precedents.

Fourth, introduce similar judgments that have legal effects. Judgments are introduced for reference in order of priority: cassation judgments of the Judges’ Council of the Supreme People’s Court, cassation judgments of three high-level People’s Courts, and other judgments.

Fifth, assist in planning the settlement of the case, creating and managing electronic case files, digitizing and arranging files according to each type of case for convenient research; support task management, giving warnings, notices, reminders.

Sixth, automatically create sample legal documents in accordance with procedural law (such as summons, detention decision, the decision to bring the case to trial...), support writing part of the judgment content, thereby helping to reduce 30% of the workload compared to traditional operations.

Seventh, support data analysis, information verification, and detection of errors in court judgments and decisions. This system deeply analyzes the case information, cross-references, and checks the case information to support the examination of evidence; detect omitted proceedings; detect citation errors; judgment analysis and technical correction; detect logical errors in documents that are difficult to detect visually.

Eighth, at the next stage of development, the virtual assistant is capable of analyzing, inferring, and making relatively accurate legal suggestions, assisting the judge in making quick and consistent decisions on the law nationwide.

Ninth, encrypting, posting of judgments, decisions to the court’s portal, and many more features.

Building E-court to carry out online litigation activities.

The core of building E-court is the digital transformation of procedural activities to form a new procedural method on a digital platform. Referring to international experience, a number of countries with developed judicial systems and modern technology have promulgated laws on electronic proceedings (France, Germany, US...) and implemented various prosecution activities on a digital basis (from the time the case is accepted to the completion of the trial).

In Vietnam, the procedural laws already have some provisions on electronic proceedings, online proceedings in the adjudication stage. In particular, at the National Assembly’s second session, based on the proposal of the Supreme People’s Court, the National Assembly passed a resolution to allow online adjudication. However, such regulations are not enough and have not fully exploited the potential of information technology in judicial activities. The proceedings that can be conducted online are:

- File a lawsuit, provide evidence and declare online.

- Pay court fees and penalties online.

- Organize online conciliation sessions in civil cases and dialogue in administrative cases.

- Online first-instance and appellate trial of criminal, civil, and administrative cases.

- Organize online sessions to deal with civil matters (such as requests for recognition of parents for children, restriction of parents’ rights to children, termination of adoption...).

- Copy files and procedural documents. Serve and notify online the procedural documents.

- Conduct other legal activities online.

Building E-court to enhance transparency in court operations.

Transparency is an attribute of judicial activities, ensuring the people’s right to access information, an effective method to control power, and at the same time a mechanism to uphold the responsibility of judges in exercising judicial rights. In this sense, transparency in court operations is a fundamental principle prescribed in the Constitution. Accordingly, the law stipulates that everyone has the right to attend the trial. The Circular of the Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court on the courtroom also contains specific provisions to facilitate media agencies to attend and report on the trial, which is a requirement that not all countries have. E-court allows further enhancing the transparency of court operations. On the digital platform, the court must strive to well implement the following contents:

First, publicize the legal system, the resolutions of the Judges’ Council of the Supreme People’s Court, case precedents, guideline documents, and legal solutions. Thereby, helping people, lecturers, law students, researchers... quickly and conveniently look up and search for documents.

Second, publicize the assignment of officers to handle cases. Thereby, creating an internal mechanism monitoring the assignment of judgments while helping litigants and people participating in proceedings monitor from the outside, and at the same time making it convenient for them to exercise their procedural rights and obligations (such as making proposals, recommendations, providing additional evidence, etc..)

Third, publicize the progress of case acceptance and settlement. Thereby, creating conditions for the people and court leaders to supervise and force each judge to make efforts to complete the settlement of the case within the prescribed time limit.

Fourth, publicize the trial process at the court hearings (except for cases where it is prohibited by law to do so), thereby allowing people to monitor and contribute to disseminating and educating the sense of law observance.

Fifth, publicize the trial results. Accordingly, publicize legally effective judgments and decisions for people’s supervision and reference. The publicity of court judgments and decisions has emphasized the responsibility of each judge, thereby improving the quality of trial and judgment.

Sixth, publicize the process and results of judgment enforcement. Thereby, creating conditions for the people and society to supervise the execution of the judgment, ensuring that justice is carried out to the end.

Seventh, publicize the process and results of judgment exemption and reduction. Accordingly, the entire process and results of consideration for sentence exemption and reduction, temporary suspension of judgment execution, postponement of judgment execution, and conditional prison parole are all publicized on a digital platform for people to monitor.

Building E-court to connect with other digital platforms

Building E-court also aims to connect with other digital platforms of the nation and ministries such as the National Public Service Portal, the National Population Database, the General Statistics Office’s database, the Supreme People’s Procuracy... The connection between digital platforms allows the court to exploit the national database to better serve its duties, and at the same time to share and utilize the database of the People’s Court to serve the process of building a digital society and economy, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of national administration and governance.

4. Tasks to be implemented

To successfully build E-court, it is necessary to have the right awareness, high determination, synchronous solutions, resources, and drastic management. In the immediate future, the following five main tasks must be performed:

Develop a master strategy on digital transformation in the court system.

The Party and State of Vietnam must strengthen and develop science and technology, considering these factors as important growth engines. In the Science and Technology Development Strategy, special emphasis is placed on promoting the digital transformation process(1). This is a key political basis for building E-court. In the process of international integration, the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam has also committed to completing the construction and operation of the E-court by 2025. Therefore, the Supreme People’s Court must urgently develop and implement the General Strategy on Digital transformation in the Court system to 2025, with a vision to 2030.

The strategy must set out specific goals, requirements, and tasks, and must create a full awareness in the court system about the importance of digital transformation and building E-court. This is not only an inevitable trend of the national digital flow but also an opportunity for court development. This strategy must clearly define the main directions for building E-court and the tasks to focus on in the coming time; determine the roadmap for each period, in accordance with economic conditions, technological level... Due to the rapid development and daily changes of technology, it is essential for the formulation of an overall digital transformation strategy to have a long-term vision, be flexible and adapt to take shortcuts, catch up, and go ahead in technology, saving costs and time.

Completing legal regulations.

Operating E-court must have a complete, synchronous, and adaptive legal system with digital technology. The main legal infrastructure of an E-court includes (1) Law on electronic proceedings; (2) Law on information technology, digital technology, artificial intelligence; (3) Laws on organizational structure of the People’s Courts and procedure-conducting agencies, and also other relevant laws.

The legal system mentioned above need to be perfected in the direction that allows the conduct of online legal activities; regulations on electronic evidence; scientific basis and legality of electronic evidence recovery software; network security; organizational structure, functions, tasks, and powers of subjects conducting electronic proceedings; role and right to participate in proceedings of information technology engineers, etc..

Development of modern digital infrastructure.

Information technology infrastructure and digital technology play an important role in the development of E-court. The Supreme People’s Court needs to develop a project to equip facilities for the E-court. The main content of the project is to equip: (1) Digital infrastructure, including digital terminals, stable high-speed transmission, large data storage center, and operation center; (2) Digital platforms for court operation and virtual assistants applying artificial intelligence corresponding to each court’s operational tasks; (3) Training program for E-court management, operation, and application.

This is a project that requires adequate funding, so (1) It is necessary to have an appropriate roadmap for the immediate, medium and long term, depending on the potential of the economy and the level of technology development; (2) Mobilizing various resources, from the State budget, international cooperation, to socialization; (3) Investment in technological equipment must satisfy the requirements of modernity, security, safety, convenience and consider taking shortcuts.

Development of human resources in information technology sector.

Human resources are an important factor determining the success of digital transformation and building E-court. To implement E-court, it is essential to develop synchronously human resources for management with the operation and application of digital technology. In which, there are (1) Team of information and digital technology engineers; (2) Team of judges, judicial titles, and court staff at all levels; (3) People who have matters that needed to be resolved by the court.

Information technology engineers must have up-to-date knowledge of digital technology as well as a strong understanding of the laws and operations of the court. It is necessary to form an organizational apparatus including the Supreme People’s Court and provincial People’s court to operate the digital technology system. The current compensation regime is a bottleneck to attracting human resources. It is necessary to innovate and have an appropriate mechanism. Judges and court staff must be trained to fully understand the E-court system and change their working habits from the traditional method to working in cyberspace. The digital platform of the E-court must become the common working platform of the entire system of nearly 800 courts. Without the system, court officers should not be able to perform their tasks. Only then can the E-court be truly successful.

Promotion of international cooperation.

Till now, many countries regionally and globally have made great strides in building E-court. Over the past time, Vietnamese courts have actively implemented the task of building E-court and have achieved some initial results, but are at a modest level. International cooperation is the shortest way to build E-court, allowing immediate access to advanced global digital technology achievements as well as its application in courts. Thereby, it would not be costly in terms of time, effort, and money to research and development, and at the same time overcome the inadequacies and limitations in implementation. International cooperation can also assist to approach financial resources for building E-court. Cooperation with countries that have built a modern E-court will share experiences, and at the same time move to connect digital infrastructure to “narrow the digital gap” between the judiciary, soon achieve the mission of building E-court and digital transformation in the judicial system.

Accelerating the digital transformation process and completing the construction of E-court must become the aspiration of the entire court system and of each officer and judge. This is an urgent task that needs to be concretized to be completed soon. This is an opportunity for the court to continue to improve the people’s trust in justice, improve its operational efficiency, and build a modern court as required in the Resolution of the 13th Party Congress. It is certain that the digital transformation and the building of E-court will create great values, make an important contribution to the success of the country’s judicial reform, and keep pace with the progressive trend of global justice.



(1) Resolution No. 52-NQ/TW dated September 27, 2019, of the Politburo on a number of guidelines and policies to actively participate in the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. NGUYEN HOA BINH

Politburo Member, Secretary of the Party Central Committee

Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court

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