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CJ lauded for role in promoting access to justice

CJ lauded for role in promoting access to justice

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 19 Nov 2019

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon was recognised for his "exemplary leadership, selfless service and commitment to developing alternative dispute resolution".

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon has been recognised for his contributions in promoting access to justice through the development of alternative dispute resolution in Singapore.

The Chief Justice was conferred the Special Recognition Award by the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (NCMG) International, a Geneva-based non-governmental organisation.

He was given the award at the group's Peace Awards Dinner held in the Nigerian capital Abuja last Thursday, Singapore's Supreme Court said in a statement yesterday.

It said the Chief Justice was recognised for his "exemplary leadership, selfless service and commitment to developing alternative dispute resolution".

The awards committee also noted the Chief Justice's contributions in "improving and modernising the civil justice system in Singapore and in strengthening Singapore's position in the world as a leading centre for international commercial dispute resolution", the statement added.

NCMG International was founded in Nigeria in 1996, and now has its headquarters in Geneva. It seeks to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and arbitration as the default means of conflict management, its website said.

Its efforts are aimed at advocating conflict management within the African continent and promoting world peace.

Previous recipients of the award included the late United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, who was presented the award posthumously, and Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who helped stop the spread of Ebola in Nigeria by identifying the first patient infected with the deadly virus.

The Chief Justice, in a statement yesterday, said he was "deeply humbled and immensely honoured" to be given the award.

"The NCMG has worked hard over the last two decades to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. This is a worthwhile mission that ties in with my belief that alternative dispute resolution is not only an effective and accessible means for the resolution of disputes, but is also indispensable in the effort to restore and build lasting peace in societies riven by conflict," he added.

Receiving his award at the dinner, the Chief Justice spoke of his belief that the law carries the promise of a better day because of its ability to safeguard the vulnerable, empower the disadvantaged, restrain the powerful and keep the peace.

It was for these reasons, he said, that it has been his personal mission during his time as Chief Justice to promote access to justice.

While in Abuja, the Chief Justice also delivered a keynote lecture titled "Technology and the changing face of justice" at the NCMG alternative dispute resolution conference, which was attended by members of the Nigerian judiciary, legal practitioners and civil servants.

In his speech, the Chief Justice spoke about how the disruptive force of technology can be carefully harnessed to enhance access to justice and narrow divisions in society.

He discussed, for example, how mobile online platforms can bridge the physical gap between individuals and institutions of justice by connecting users to courtrooms and court processes. He cited the example of the Chinese courtroom application Weisu, which supports identity verification, submission of court documents and even the transcription of testimonies.

The Chief Justice said: "This is particularly important for those who live in less accessible areas, suffer from physical disabilities or are otherwise constrained from travel by their circumstances."

The Chief Justice also highlighted the proliferation of low-cost digital tools such as chatbots like the Automated Divorce Advisor, created by Nigerian online platform LawPadi, which helps users determine their eligibility for divorce and connects them to a lawyer.

Such tools, which are capable of performing legal tasks and even offering legal advice, will have a growing impact on the market for legal services, the Chief Justice said. "In so doing, technology promises to open the gates of justice to many who were formerly excluded," he added.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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