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ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM

The Electronic Filing System (or EFS) is the Singapore Judiciary's electronic
platform for filing and service of documents within the litigation process. In
addition, it provides the registries of the Supreme Court and the
Subordinate Courts with an electronic registry and workflow system; • and an
electronic case file. Recent enhancements have added a module which
facilitates the conduct of hearing using documents that have been electronically
filed.

The EFS provides the legal profession with a rudimentary online case file from
which documents can be electronically filed with the courts or served on the other
parties in a case. The EFS is also the source for electronic cause book searches that
are provided through the Litigation module of LawNet.
An Overview of the Electronic Filing System
The Electronic Filing System (EFS) was implemented by the Singapore Judiciary
to provide a platform for Law Firms (LFs) to file documents to the Courts
electronically over the Internet. The EFS was specifically designed to fully exploit
the electronic super highway to minimise not just the physical movement of people
and paper court documents from LFs to the Courts, but also to leverage the benefits
of electronic storage within the Courts: ie faster document filing and retrieval,
eradication of the misplacement of case files, concurrent access to view the same
case filed by different parties, etc.
Within the Courts, the EFS allows electronic documents to be automatically routed
to the appropriate registry staff for processing. The system allows further routing
within the courts e.g. for approvals by the Duty Registrar and a reply is then sent
out by the Registry staff which is routed back to the originating LF. This has
enabled realisations of improvements in efficiency by minimising paper flow to
shorten case processing time. Fees payable by the LFs for filing documents to
Court are deducted automatically by the EFS. The whole process is fast,
convenient and efficient.

The components of EFS


The EFS consists of the following components: (a) The Front-End (FE) accessed
via the Internet from each ‘EFS ready’ Law Firm’s desktop. (b) A Gateway (GW)
that receives submissions from the LFs or the replies from the Courts, routes it to
the appropriate party and computes the fees payable by the LF for the transaction.
(c) The Courts’ Workflow (WF) application that resides on Courts’ computers and
caters for the internal routing and workflow processes within the courts. (d) A
Hearing Module that is used to conduct hearings electronically. (d) A stand alone
Key Management System (KMS)
Front End Application
The EFS FE is a web based solution that LFs access from their PCs via the
Internet. A LF needs to register in order to gain access. Upon registration, the LF
would be issued with smart cards containing the digital certificates from the
Court’s Certification Authority. The FE provides LFs with an online case file
through which they can view the documents which have been filed by them, served
on them or replied from the Courts.
Upcoming hearing dates are also pushed through the EF at the law firm level and at
the case level. The FE’s File-n-Serve feature facilitates service of documents on
other parties in the case with one click of the mouse. Documents are transmitted in
Portable Document Format (PDF).
To file or serve a document, the LF has to fill up the appropriate online template in
the FE and attach the document to be filed or served in PDF format. The entire
submission may consist of one or several documents and this is digitally signed
using the smart card issued upon registration in order to ensure authenticity and
non-repudiation.

The Gateway
When the LF files a document to the Court, the submission is actually received by
the GW which then performs certain validations, computes the fees to be charged
and identifies to which user department the submission is to be routed to. Replies
from the Court are received by the GW and routed to the correct LF for retrieval.
The GW performs the following crucial functions:
(a) Automated validation checks when documents are filed;
(b) Implementation of certain special rules;
(c) Automated routing of submissions into Courts’ in-trays;
(d) Computation of stamp and other filing fees;
(e) Exchange of information between the Back End and the Front End.
Court’s Workflow Application
The business logic of the courts is built into this application. It encapsulates
workflow routing, document management and statistical report generation;
documents are stored in a jukebox. An electronic case file allows the easy retrieval
of documents; and an upcoming enhancement will collate and present information
relating to a case file within a single easy to use interface.
Hearing Module
The Hearing Module is customised to allow registrars and judges to make use of
the EFS to conduct paper-less hearings in chambers. The Hearing Module pre-
fetches the entire case file of hearings fixed before a registrar to the local PC to
allow quick recall of documents. Dual screens are deployed to allow the viewing of
the case file and minute sheets on one screen and the viewing of documents on the
other. The Pack-n-Go feature allows registrars and judges to download all the
documents in a case file onto a thumb drive for reading at home.
Key Management System
The Courts operates as an independent Certification Authority which issues digital
certificates on smart cards to LFs. The Key Management System (KMS), which is
central to this function, comprises the following components: (a) A Certificate
Authority Management System used to issue and revoke digital certificates; (b) A
Certificate Server that centrally stores the digital certificates; (d) A web-based
Certificate Client System which LFs use to manage smart cards issued to them and
to request for and receive digital certificates which are then stored in the smart
cards; and (e) A web-based Key Generating Software which LF use to generate
their private–public key pair.
Implementation History
Initial planning (1990 to 1997)
The early 1990s saw a number of technological initiatives that would eventually
pave the way for the development of the EFS.
The LawNet information service, which originally provided a single database of
statutes for the legal profession, was launched in 1990. The operation of LawNet
and other related technological developments was under the purview of the
LawNet Council (the predecessor of the present LawNet Management Committee).
From a basic legal research service, LawNet was eventually expanded between
1992 and 1997 into a comprehensive network of computer services for the legal
sector, comprising six modules covering major areas of legal practice:
• Litigation
• Conveyancing
• Corporate Law
• Intellectual Property
• Legal Research
• Integrated Law Office.
A Judicial Administration computerisation programme was completed in 1994.
Under this programme, a comprehensive network infrastructure was put in place to
support various applications, including connectivity to external systems. An
Electronic Bulletin Board was also set up to facilitate communication through
electronic means as a step towards the paperless office environment.
In 1995, the first Technology Court was launched. The Technology Court featured
digital recording and transcription of proceedings, as well as facilities for the
multimedia presentation of evidence. A Remote Chamber Hearing System was also
launched to enable members of the legal profession to have ex parte matters heard
via desktop video conferencing, and a Judicial Officer’s Bulletin Board was set up
as part of the incremental shift towards a paperless court system.
As the cornerstone of a new electronic paperless case management system, the
Electronic Filing System (EFS) initiative was first proposed to the LawNet Council
in 1995. Under the proposed EFS, law firms would be able to file their suits and
submit documents through an electronic data interchange. In addition to electronic
filing, the proposed EFS was to incorporate an electronic case document extract
service, allow for electronic service of documents, and provide for a
comprehensive electronic information service.
Phases of Implementation (1997 to 2004)
Phase 1.0 (8 March 1997)
Phase 1.0 of the EFS was launched on 8 March 1997 as a pilot programme
with voluntary participation for lawyers. The scope of implementation was
limited to only certain aspects of writs of summons. The purpose of this pilot
phase was to enable planners to benefit from the lessons learnt in order to
fine-tune subsequent phases of implementation.
Phase 1.2 (1 March 2000)
Phase 1.2 of the EFS was launched on 1 March 2000. Mandatory e-filing to
the courts was introduced, and the scope of EFS was expanded to cover most
aspects of writs of summons and their corresponding workflow systems.
Phase 2 (2 July 2001)
Phase 2 of the EFS was launched on 2 July 2001. This phase saw the
introduction of a web-based front-end interface for EFS users, a full-text
Electronic Index Search and Extract Service, and an Electronic Service of
Documents Facility. The Electronic Index Search and Extract Service
allowed law firms to search an electronic case file index and request the
extraction of soft copies or certified true copies of case documents. Under
the Electronic Service of Documents Facility, law firms were allowed to
electronically serve documents on other EFS-ready law firms.
Phase 3 (18 December 2001)
Phase 3 of the EFS was launched on 18 December 2001. The scope of EFS
was expanded to include originating summons, appeals to the Court of
Appeal, District Court appeals, taxation of costs, interpleader, and the
admission of advocates & solicitors.
Phase 4A (28 May 2002)
Phase 4A of the EFS was launched on 28 May 2002. The scope of EFS was
expanded to include more forms of civil proceedings such as admiralty
matters, originating motions, originating petitions, originating summons in
bankruptcy, bankruptcy petitions, petitions of course, companies winding-
up, power of attorney, and probate (Supreme Court).
Phase 4B(i) (9 December 2002)
Phase 4B(i) of the EFS was launched on 9 December 2002. This phase saw
the inclusion of applications for adoption petitions under the EFS, namely,
the auto-generation of adoption petitions in the Family Court using
information provided in the form of an electronic data items template.

Phase 4B(ii) (15 December 2003)


Phase 4B(ii) of the EFS was launched on 15 December 2003. In the Family
Court, the scope of EFS was expanded to include petitions for divorce under
the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 1997 Rev Ed) and originating summonses
under the Guardianship of Infants Act (Cap 122, 1985 Rev Ed), the
Women’s Charter, the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap 3, 1999 Rev
Ed) and the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 1999 Rev Ed). The
scope of EFS was also expanded to cover probate and administration
proceedings in the Subordinate Courts, and procedures were enhanced in
respect of probate and administration proceedings in the Supreme Court.
Phase 5 (22 December 2004)
Phase 5 of the EFS was implemented in several sub-phrases between July
2003 and December 2004, and was deemed commissioned on 22 December
2004. Under this phase, EFS was extended to the Corporate Services
Department of the Supreme Court. Data contained within the existing
mainframe-based civil system was migrated to the EFS. In addition, the
ability to generate statistical reports was added to the EFS.
Phase 6 (10 January 2005)
Phase 6 of the EFS was implemented on 10 January 2005. The scope of EFS
was expanded to encompass criminal matters in the Supreme Court,
including: preliminary inquiries, criminal cases, criminal appeals to the
Court of Appeal, criminal revision proceedings, criminal reference
proceedings, magistrates’ appeals, criminal motions, and show cause
proceedings.