The issue arising from the system was discussed in the Legal Committee of the Parliament, with the MPs not being satisfied with what they heard.
Lawyers who have been left hanging after the inability of the e-justice system to meet the needs of the legal world can even face legal malpractice suits. This was stated today by MP Fotini Tsiridou, Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, who requested information on the situation that has arisen in the last ten days, due to the non-responsiveness of the system.
Neophytos Papadopoulos, Director General of the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, said, speaking before the Commission, that a condition of the contract was activated yesterday, according to which the company must resolve the problems within five days.
Lawyers' protest outside the Parliament: “Justice is not a guinea pig”
The meeting of the Commission convened at a time when dozens of lawyers were protesting outside the Parliament premises. Besides, the meeting was also attended by representatives of the Pancypriot Bar Association (PDA), including its President, Michalis Vorkas. Mr. Vorkas, in his statements to journalists during the development of the protest, said that “Justice is not a laboratory animal, but is the pillar of the state which ensures human rights and the rule of law”.
PDS, as an external user of ejustice, pointed out Mr. Vorkas, for the last two years at least, repeatedly highlighted several problems that the system in question faced during the planning and pilot implementation, put them in writing and orally, and always cited positive suggestions, it is stated in an announcement of the association.
“We have always been positive about modernization, because we want progress. Unfortunately, despite our many highlights, the system is not functional at all. What is important is for our offices to be able to work and for them to work the only way out, at this stage, is the one we have recommended to the Supreme Court, that is, the physical registration of the cases”, he added.
A one-hour protest rally will also take place on Friday outside the main entrance of the District Courts from 10:30 to 11:30, as announced by the Pancypriot Bar Association.
Paralysis of the award system. of justice from January 15
The Vice-President of the PDS, Nikolas Tsardellis, stated during the meeting of the Legal Committee that since January 15, the entire justice delivery system has been paralyzed and that, even where there is some stabilization of the operation of the system, there are deficiencies in everything that has to do with the procedures. He also noted that with the situation created, citizens' access to justice was limited and in some cases there is absolute deprivation of access.
He explained, in response to questions submitted earlier by members of the Committee, that when the bids for this project were announced in 2017, the Bar Association had no involvement, until later when the design and implementation of the system began, and the contribution of the lawyers was requested, in order to check that the procedures followed in the courts have been transferred to the system. He underlined, however, that the desire of the legal world is to find a solution immediately, so that they have an electronic system at their disposal.
Activation of a contract term to solve problems within 5 days< /p>
Speaking before the Committee, Neophytos Papadopoulos, Director General of the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, stated that a condition of the contract was activated yesterday, according to which the company must resolve the problems within five days. He explained that the contract provides for the possibility of even termination, in case of insurmountable problems. As he said, this will be evaluated after the company's efforts are complete.
Mr. Papadopoulos noted that the gradual escalation of the problems did not justify activating earlier the specific provision of the contract with the contracting company. He also said that there were no expected problems in the performance and functionality of the system, as well as in the payment system. He mentioned that stress tests had been done by the company, which assured that it would fix any problems.
He explained that with the emergence of the problems, the Deputy Ministry came into contact with the Supreme Court and the Bar Association to examine ways of dealing with them. He emphasized that no money has been thrown away, due to the appearance of problems in the system, but that time has certainly passed unused.
The Committee was not satisfied with the answers, the statements of the MPs
The Chairperson of the Committee, DISY Member of Parliament, Fotini Tsiridou, stated in her statements after the meeting that the members of the Committee were not satisfied with the positioning of the contracting company, noting that it was limited to presenting only the history of the management of the system. Besides, the Member of Parliament of AKEL, Andreas Pasiourtidis, with his intervention during the meeting, denounced that there was an attempt on the part of the government, so that the company IBM, which had undertaken the project, would not attend the meeting of the Committee.
Mrs. Tsiridou also noted in her statements that, while the purpose of the system was to improve the efficiency and speed of justice, as well as to save time and money, the result was that with the implementation of e-justice operational problems were presented , administratively and in matters of expenses.
“We are particularly concerned that at this time lawyers may even be facing possible case management responsibilities,” he added, saying that when a lawyer files an ex parte interlocutory application to issue a temporary injunction against the other side without the latter knows it, the other party also receives the notification through the system. Responding to a reporter's question, Ms. Tsiridou explained that in such cases, a lawyer may face legal malpractice lawsuits.
Ms. Tsiridou went on to say that with the disruption caused, time is lost and money, justice is disrupted and lawyers are forced to resort to practices that were applied before the pandemic period and before the implementation of the electronic protocol system, i-justice, underlining that “this is unacceptable”.
“We asked for information from all the relevant agencies, we did not receive the answers we expected in any of the cases, we asked the questions, we asked for the agreement, we asked for the conditions and we will definitely come back because we completely share the inconvenience and the unacceptable situation in which local justice has fallen”, concluded Mrs. Tsiridou.
In his statements after the meeting, AKEL Member of Parliament, Aristos Damianou, spoke of an “irreparable damage” from the problems created due to the weaknesses of the system, underlining that, even if the problem is corrected, “the damage has been done and in the administration of justice, and in the good name of professionals in the sector and of course in relation to human rights”.
“The much-advertised electronic justice has ended up leading to a paralysis of the administration of justice,” said Mr. Damianou, speaking of “yet another innovation of the Christodoulidis administration.” He noted that the answers requested by the MPs have not been given, and that it is not known whether the problems will be corrected or if there is a plan b.
“What we know is that, as a result of actions and omissions by the Ministry of Justice, the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, and possibly actions that should have been taken by the judiciary, but also obviously by the company that undertook the project, they have led to paralysis in the system administration of justice, with the result that the livelihoods of thousands of professionals are adversely affected, the human rights of citizens are adversely affected, whose unimpeded access to justice has been affected and an irreparable damage is fatally recorded,” said Mr. Damianou.
When asked if there is an issue of data security, Mr. Damianou said that there is an issue of security in terms of data loss, because two registration processes are running in parallel, both electronic and physical.
He clarified that he does not want to refer in detail to responsibilities, as this issue may be brought before the courts, but he emphasized that “at the political level, what is found are deficits and political inadequacy”.
In his intervention during the Committee meeting, the Member of Parliament of DIKO, Zacharias Koulias, said that the state presents “a sad picture” and said that the issue will also be examined at a meeting of the Audit Committee. He noted that the problems of the e-justice system are “the third case”, after the problems presented with the contract for the development of a system of the General Accounting Office for the management of resources, and after the problems presented with the system of the Registrar of Companies.< /p>
The Member of Parliament of DIPA, Alekos Tryfonidis, pointed out that the answers given by the authorities and by the contractor company were not satisfactory, saying that “the damage done is very great and perhaps irreparable”. He referred to the effects on the livelihood of professionals in the justice sector, but also on the right of citizens to appeal to justice.
“After the margin of five days, as a Democratic Party Cooperation, we demand that an investigation be conducted and responsibilities be held for the unsatisfactory functioning of the system and the chaos created in the justice system, at a time when we are proud to be reforming the justice sector which affects the entire course and credibility of our country”, he concluded.
The Member of Parliament of the Environmental Movement, Charalambos Theopeptou, with his intervention in the Committee, raised a series of questions, regarding whether analyzes were made to record the procedures and to include them in the technical specifications of the offer for the system, whether there was a public consultation with the lawyer association, so that it is in line with what was included in the specifications and if safety requirements were included in the contract with the contractor company.