Functioning of courts during the pandemic


Like all other institutions and departments where physical public dealings were an integral part of their functioning, courts too falling in the same category had to reschedule and reshape the process of their routine functioning in congruence with the precautionary protocol of the corona virus pandemic and while following the SOPs and other related guidelines ensured that performance did not, in any way, get impaired or be at a disadvantage to the general public. It is to be seen to be believed that under the trying period when many judicial personnel got infected with the virus, the working of the Common High Court of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh as also District and Subordinate Courts was not only maintained but as per the data available and made fairly known, the performance was beyond expectations. This data is in respect of the achievement registered in cases clearance rate (CSR) the information about which, as per the insistence of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice of the Rajya Sabha, was to be furnished by Registrar General of the High Court to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and other concerned. Since the virus and its impact, direct and indirect, resulted in a sea change in every aspect of human activities and way of personal and social life, the functioning of every institution, departments, schools, colleges and universities, facets of all administrative apparatus, judiciary, Parliament and the like had to undergo a change and remodelling in their respective working. However, utility and the benefits of the information technology made it largely possible as virtual mode resorted to, showed very satisfactory results. In the same way, physical hearings in the Common High Court of both the Union Territories was stopped to follow the necessary guidelines of the Government of India and Government of J&K Union Territory. Starting and giving a push to the virtual mode by the High Court and other subordinate courts paid handsome dividends when seen and analysed in respect of the percentage of case clearance rate. The expectations, no doubt, could touch any zeniths but it is to be not only observed but appreciated too that a new system where physical contact was no more but the process other than that duly followed in case hearings and that too, for the first time and that bringing about good results in performance, can only be commended and admired. The virus could not succeed in crippling the system as otherwise it was all possessed and loaded with, only due to our fortitude and devising ways other than conventional, especially when modern technology has blessed the present era with that. The data made public in respect of how many cases were disposed of in the worst hit year of 2020 by the corona virus pandemic as compared to cases handled in the corresponding period of the last (normal) three years, it would be seen that a blend of hard work and a total commitment of courts resulted in superb performance say of 231% in respect of the High Court only while in respect of other subordinate courts, the CCR, however, was lower as compared to the years 2018 and 2019 respectively. Since the unprecedented surge in COVID-19 virus infections is again witnessed for the last two to three weeks across the country and even in Jammu and Kashmir, there could be the possibility of giving more preference to virtual mode than physical appearance and hearing in courts and with the given results of performance in delivering of justice to the litigants, still better results could be expected. We are undoubtedly quite hopeful in that. It would not be out of context to say that in the area of long pendency of court cases and in the light of the fresh guidelines issued by the High Court and to file performance cum progress reports on clearance thereof periodically, much remains still to be done even under the present challenging circumstances.