"Basement" - a word if mentioned in a conversation, would likely ignite an image of a space below a building. If pressed on, most of us would visualise a basement as a place to store things; a parking place for cars; perhaps even a dark place; but how many people would think of a "Court" when uttering that word, "basement"?
Well, at Kuala Lumpur Duta Court Complex, the basement of the building where some cars are parked, where a canteen is located there too and also some space to store Court Files; is also the location of the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate Courts Managing centre.
Recently, the Courts restructured the system, and created a new system, called the 'Tracking system', where ALL cases are managed by a Central Managing Centre, and conduct Case Management Hearings. This managing centre would then 'distribute' the case to relevant Magistrate Court which are located at the same Court Complex.
Everyday, many lawyers would gather at this Basement to meet with Registrars who are managing the many many files there. Currently, the Civil division of the Magistrate Courts hears disputes of matters, below RM25,000 in value. And every day, Hundreds (if not Thousands) of cases are called up for this Case Management under this tracking system at this Basement. Sometimes over a hundred lawyers would squeeze into this small area of about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet and jostle to meet the Court Registrars.
There are some LCD screens at this area of the Basement; to show the list of cases, and used to flash the next case to be called by the Registrar to call. In theory a lawyer would only need to see this LCD screen to know when to meet the relevent Registrar. The Registrar on the other hand, sits in a cubicle to manage the file with the lawyer who is called.
But this LCD screen has on many occasion, fail to work. The lawyers are then made to line up and horde near the cubicle to hear their cases being called up. At the same time, whilst waiting, some court clerk will sometimes, instruct the lawyers to wait near the LCD TV, and despite pleas that the LCD does not work (and hence why the lawyers need to stand near the cubilce) etc etc, the lawyers are shooed away from the Cubicle and forced to strain their ears (and necks) to hear their case being called by the Registrars.
If one try to find a place to sit at this area of the Basement; that too would be difficult, as seats are a premium. So the lawyers are forced to stand and wait.
The mobile phone signal for all 3 mobile phone companies in this Basement area is very very weak. And to compound matters, due to the large amount of people, forced to congregate at a small area, the place becomes warm and uncomfortable.
So the lawyers who attends to this hearing at the Basement, would have little signal to communicate via their mobile phone (which would mean some lawyers who are on 3G phone cant even use the time waiting for the case be called, to reply their e-mails), and would have to endure a warm and suffocating atmosphere in a small closed area.
This article here, wishes to raise awareness on what lawyers go through at this Basement at Duta Court Complex. Matters are sometimes called as late as 5pm, and lawyers (who have to be there by 2pm, as the Case Management starts then) may have spent as much as 3-4 hours just to wait to meet the Registrar.
An obvious point which sometimes may be forgotten, is that these lawyers are at Court to WORK. Not to play, not to mingle, but to WORK. To represent their client and to sort out the matter. Whilst it would be fair to comment to say that luxury is not a neccessity when executing one's jobs especially at a place like a Court Complex, but surely, there is a minimum standard of quality expected at any work place.
And amongst the people waiting at this Basement, are not merely lawyers, but many many lay people, who are usually lost and overwhelmed by the whole court process. It is common to see many lay people, looking absolutely lost and unsure of what exactly is happening, and they would be wondering around the Basement too, to attend to their cases.
So we have a mix fruits of lawyers & lay people, congregating at this less than 2,000 square feet place, trying to jostle to meet Justice.
We fought for independence, to manage our own country, and over 50 years later, the Capital of our Country has a Court where almost everyday, people have to squeeze into a small-not-properly-ventilated-&-without-a-proper-mobile-phone-signal-place, just to try sort out their legal problem. Surely, we can do better than this.