Impact of CoronaVirus on the Indian Judiciary

The Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has briskly taken over the whole world, as of now over 49.5 million people have fallen prey to the deadly virus. The virus has affected the lives of people, businesses and markets and as led to nationwide lockdown in several countries. In India, on 24th march The Indian Government directed a countrywide lockout for 21 days till 14th April which was subsequently extended till 31st may. The rationale behind lockout was to ‘flatten the curve ‘for the pandemic. The lockdown or limited restrictions still be subjected to the prevailing situation in each city. All the sectors are overwhelmed by the lockdown. Educational institutions, industrial establishments, transportation services and hospitality services were deferred due to the lockout. During these hard times, while the government and the civil servants are trying to curb the pandemic, the judiciary also implemented different mechanism to extends its support to the litigants, lawyers and mostly prioritize the judicial delivery system. The framers of the constitution had never assumed that one day, two of the 3 organs of the State will practically stop operating. But that is exactly what is happening in India now. Needlessly to say, that the outbreak of Covid19 has left its repercussions on Judiciary in numerous ways. The Supreme court of India has declared guidelines for Court functioning such as hearing only capital matters and obligatory automated filing, furthermore conveying them through video conference. PROBLEMS FACED BY THE JUDICIARY: PENDULOUSNESS OF CASE: Even in normal circumstances, the Indian judicial system has a tremendous overload of cases. The coronavirus pandemic has made this graver. This season, the amount of cases disposed of by courts has plunged, according to data from the National Judicial Data Grid, an online source controlled by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice. The average number of cases disposed of every month by High Courts have declined by 50%, while subordinate courts have seen an even clearer drop by 70%. APPOINTMENT OF JUDICIAL POSTION IS IMPEDED: Prior to COVID-19, the high courts had vacancies of over 36 percent – out of which 1,029 positions were authorized,201 were perpetual and 184 were for the supplementary judges. But at the moment Supreme court collegium has over 120 appointment. Of high court judges pending with itself. In July, the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, wrote to the union cabinet law Minister Mr. Shankar Prasad, requesting him urgently accelerate the appointment of judges, who were previously approved. By the Supreme Court collegium. He further pointed that there is already a curtailment of 37% judges in high courts, which is only going to increase as a result of judges retiring every month. QUASI-JUDICIAL ORGANIZATIONS HAVE STOPPED WORKING: The proceedings in many tribunals have come to a standstill during the lockout in spite of these judicial bodies being fully equipped with video conferencing foundation. for instance, the central zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal had been hearing matters through video conferencing for nearly two years but stopped functioning since the lockdown. CATASTROPHE FOR THE UNDERTRIALS: The right to a speedy trial is an indispensable part of the principles of fair trial and is necessary to the international human rights discourse. In Indian jails, most of the prisoners are undertrials, which are immured to the jails until their case comes to formal termination. But due to lockdown only critical cases are being heard so it is not plausible to hear matters of under trial convicts. STANDARDS AFFIRMED BY COURT FOR ITS FUNCTIONING Article 142 of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court within the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is important for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it. Exercising this power Supreme court, said that each one the measures which shall be taken by the courts to scale back physical presence of stakeholders within its premises "shall be deemed to be lawful". A bench headed by The current Chief Justice Of India SA Bobde stated, "consistent with the peculiarities of the judiciary in every state and therefore the dynamically developing public health situation", every supreme court would be authorized to work out the modalities suitable to the temporary transition to the utilization of video conferencing technologies’ Directions gone by the Supreme court on 6 April 2020, for the conduct of court proceedings across the country via video conferencing (VC), during the amount of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic are a welcome step. Broadly, the Supreme Court has addressed that all High Courts shall guarantee their function through use of video conferencing technologies and to this end and shall determine the modalities for use of video conferencing technologies after acknowledging associated constituents. And even District Courts in every state shall utilize video conferencing technologies directed by the relevant High Court. For those litigators who do not have access to these conveniences in that case the court shall make accessible video conferencing facilities for them. Moreover, the Supreme Court assigned the District court to follow the guidance till further information is not given by the High court with respect to the use of video conferencing technologies. And thus, superintendence shall endure in force till such time as further orders are relinquished by the Supreme Court. We live in a very dynamic world; therefore, change is always a must. So as our Prime Minister said “turn crisis into opportunity”, the Indian Judicial system should grab this opportunity by the collar and make full of it by modernizing the justice providing system. The online/virtual court will prove be the future of Judiciary.

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