Malaysia's courts get a high-tech upgrade

KUALA LUMPUR - Technology is helping the Construction Court here to try cases with greater efficacy and transparency.

The witness box and counsel's tables are now big enough to accommodate technical drawings and more than one expert witness can sit together and testify in what was the first row of the public gallery.

Even the courtroom at the Court Complex here has been re-oriented, says Construction Court judge Datuk Mary Lim,

Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria agreed to move the room "on its axis".

"Instead of the usual lengthwise design, this is oriented breadthwise. In terms of accountability, the public gets to see all the players and not just the judge's face.

"This way, the public can evaluate for themselves the mannerisms of counsel and not just one face," the High Court judge told The Star.

The visualiser is one of the high-tech players in the courtroom.

"It is basically a camera that projects the image (of a document) onto an interactive white board. It can also be projected onto the other two screens in the court.

"Lawyers can plug their laptops into the system and see the same image on their own screens."

There is WiFi in the court as well as video-conferencing facilities.

Lim said the entire proceedings were recorded and with the camera panning to whoever was talking, everyone in the courtroom could view the same thing at the same time.

As for evidence, she said all the parties in court often looked at huge drawings but only wanted a particular area and needed to get to it immediately so they do not lose momentum.

Now, it does not matter if the document is in hard copy or the item is a 3D object because the visualiser focuses on it and the image appears on the interactive white board.

"The interpreter or the witness himself can then zero in on the area in dispute and zoom it out as big as we need," Lim said.

She said witnesses could point with their finger or use a "pen" to mark the specific area - by highlighting it in various colours or "drawing" a circle or triangle around it.

"If you wanted a witness to draw something, we all had to wait an­­xiously while he finished it and it was passed to the judge and parties, with the public left wondering what he had drawn.

"Now, he draws on the board with the pointer and all of us are looking as it progresses, and he can explain what he is drawing as well."

Another new feature is called "hot tubbing".

"The idea is to return experts to their true function, which is to assist and not to be partisan," Lim said.