Turkey officially launched e-hearings on Tuesday as it looks to reform its judiciary practices and limit the number of people in courtrooms amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a small courtroom in the capital Ankara, the 1st Consumer Court hosted the first such hearing with the attendance of defendants and plaintiffs. Only a few people were present at the hearing, while lawyers connected via video link, seen on a screen on a wall of the courtroom. Lawyers used their electronic signature for ID confirmation before they appeared on screen in calls made from their offices, dressed in full regalia.
E-hearings use software exclusively developed by the information technology department of the Justice Ministry and allow lawyers to connect to the hearings from different cities. They are required to register for the hearing one day in advance and receive the judges’ approval after presenting their excuse for being not able to attend in person.
Parliament has recently approved a set of new regulations aiming to overhaul the judiciary system, which is overburdened with mounting cases. The reform package aims to boost remote hearings at a time when they are most needed in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The package also aims to increase access to private hearings, which will provide for greater secrecy, particularly important for children in cases of abuse or divorce and custody hearings.
In other changes, judges may be allowed to refuse cases and encourage the sides to apply for mediation. The package also paves the way for courts to handle commerce-related disputes.
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