Independence of Supreme Court in the cyber world

The new arrangement reflects that the UK Parliament, which is not suffixed with a ‘.gov’ address, is free from the government’s interference and influence

Is our Supreme Court independent or is it still a branch of the government? The ordinary answer would be “yes, our Supreme Court is independent and no longer a part of the government”, but at least the web address of our Supreme Court has yet to get independence from the government, as the URL is www.supremecourt.gov.bd.

In the cyber world, country codes such as “.bd,” and generic suffixes such as “.com” and “.net,” are known as top-level domains. The second-level domain is whatever precedes this suffix: for example “.edu” or “.gov.” Hence, www.supremecourt.gov.bd simply means the Supreme Court is a sub division of the Bangladeshi government.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has decided to change its web address in the New Year, reflecting the court’s constitutional position as independent of other branches of government. A UK Supreme Court news release was issued in this regard on December 16, 2013. The previous URL of the UK Supreme Court was supremecourt.gov.uk.

In contrast, some of the most important UK national institutions – parliament, the police, the British Library, and rather curiously, the Ministry of Defence – were allowed to dispense of their shared second-level domain. Instead, they use their own name or initials followed by the country code – for example, police.uk – enhancing their status while stressing their independence. In the same vein, the obvious web address for Britain’s Supreme Court was supremecourt.uk, one that was available but that the court was not allowed to use while the website was initiated more than eight years ago.

According to the press release from January 6 this year, the domain addresses of the UK Supreme Court and Privy Council will be www.supremecourt.uk and www.jcpc.uk respectively.

This move follows a drive for most public bodies to publish their online material under the single “gov.uk” portal. The Supreme Court was concerned that such a move would risk undermining perceptions of its independence, especially when as many as half of the Supreme Court’s caseload involves the government as a party. The new arrangement reflects that the UK Parliament, which is not suffixed with a “.gov” address, is free of government interference and influence.

The press release added: “The overall content and design of the two websites will not change. Users searching for the current “top level” domains – ie homepages – will be automatically redirected to the new addresses from January, though web users who have bookmarked or published ‘deep links’ to pages or resources on the Supreme Court and JCPC websites will need to amend these to reach the new address.”

Legal professionals and other court users are also being informed of a corresponding change to the email addresses of Supreme Court staff and Justices, also effective from January 6.

Although it is widely known that the UK legal system is very sophisticated and has developed many new legal standards over the centuries, France is fairly ahead of them in this regard. The URL of the highest court of France is www.courdecassation.fr.   While many other countries with rich legal traditions have not yet thought of it, the UK and France have done it already, setting a precedent for other countries to follow.

The web address of the US Supreme Court still bears a “.gov” suffix (http://www.supremecourt.gov/) and it seems difficult for them to find a quick alternative, as the US domain addresses do not have country suffixes, such as “.us” or “.usa.”

India is a bit different. The web address of the Indian Supreme Court is www.supremecourt.nic.in. Here, the second level suffix “.nic,” which stands for national informatics centre (NIC) and the website is designed, developed and hosted by the NIC Computer Cell, Supreme Court of India. However, the content on the website is published and managed by the Registry of the Supreme Court of India.

To conclude, as our judiciary is independent from the government, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh should consider changing its web address in line with the example set by the UK Supreme Court and the highest court in France to ensure its independence in the cyber world.

Source: Dhaka Tribune