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Putting paperless court proceedings into action – Court Proceedings (Electronic Technology) Bill passed

  • Hong Kong
  • Litigation and dispute management

24-07-2020

Recent Developments

On 17 July 2020, the Court Proceedings (Electronic Technology) Bill (the “Bill”) was passed after the Legislative Council’s second and third reading. Gazetted on 27 December 2019, the Bill passed its first reading on 8 January 2020. The Bill provides for the use of electronic technology in court proceedings, particularly the electronic handling of court-related documents and payments.

The key proposals in the Bill are:

  • electronic filing or sending of documents to the court;
  • inter-party electronic service of documents;
  • electronic authentication of documents; and
  • provision of legal status of print-outs/copies of printouts of documents issued by the court.

For a detailed account of the main proposals of the Bill, please refer to our initial e-briefing of 7 January 2020.

Implementation

The electronic handling of court-related documents operates under an integrated court case management system (“iCMS”) as part of the Judiciary’s Information Technology Strategy Plan . As the iCMS will be implemented in phases across different levels of courts, it remains to be seen how court users and litigants adapt to this novel progression in the use of technology in practice.

In order to facilitate litigants’ transition from conventional to electronic means, it is expected that subsidiary legislation, practice directions or guidance notes akin to those which have been recently circulated for remote civil hearings, may be introduced to specify detailed court and operational procedures.

Significance of Passing the Bill

The passage of the Bill is likely to reduce the reliance on the use of paper documents in court proceedings, which created issues during the court’s general adjournment period from February to April 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in Hong Kong. Launching the iCMS may also expediate court proceedings by streamlining and standardising electronic court processes and enable the Judiciary’s Information Technology Strategy Plan to be properly executed. This will help ensure that justice is duly administered continuously and effectively particularly during these unprecedented times.

Outside of the pandemic context, the development is also a significant step forward for Hong Kong. In addition to reducing paper use, it narrows the technological gap in court proceedings between the city and other major jurisdictions.

However, the government has yet to confirm when the Bill will come into effect.