China's top court has started posting its judgments online, marking a significant step in ensuring the public's right to know and preserving the rule of law.
Power must be exercised in the light to ensure that it is exercised correctly. Just as sunshine is the best antiseptic, transparency represents the best way to supervise power.
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) has posted several judgments on its official website already and will continue to post more, except for those concerning national secrets, trade secrets and personal privacy.
Following earlier efforts to establish open trials, the posting of the judgments is an essential component of China's efforts to enhance judicial reforms that are intended to boost public confidence in the legal system.
Internet-facilitated judicial transparency can broaden reforms easily and at a low cost, as well as prevent backroom dealings and boost public engagement in China's legal system.
The Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) is also endeavoring to make its work more transparent and meet the public's need to know about, participate in and supervise the legal system.
The SPP has invited the public and media to visit its offices, as well as tried to answer questions from the public. It has also vowed to boost transparency by using new media, such as microblogs, instant messaging and the Internet.
The SPC and SPP's vow to prioritize disclosure reflects efforts by the government and Communist Party of China (CPC) to avoid bureaucracy and engage the public more intensely.
Increased openness in the legal system will force judicial staff to conduct greater research in the course of their work, as they will be more exposed to public scrutiny.
Once a real institutional commitment to transparent legal proceedings is made, it will encourage procurators and judges to take greater care in drafting their arguments. If cases become more open, procurators and judges will have to work that much harder to maintain public standing and preserve the legitimacy of the judicial system.
With the SPC and SPP enhancing transparency, thousands of local judicial organs are expected to follow in their footsteps and improve the judicial system on an even broader scale.