J&K HC goes digital !

Very recently , Supreme Court of India decided to hear court cases only through video conferencing looking to the threat of Coronavirus. A mechanism has been evolved for that whereby the court website shall be listing urgent cases to be heard . Under this mechanism, while judges shall be sitting in the court room, advocates on the other hand shall be appearing and make arguments through a separate room in the court premises. In the same way, Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh Common High Court shall be hearing urgent matters and that also only through video conferencing . This step has been taken to minimise gathering and contact with one another in view of the threat of Coronavirus . Not only this, even the functioning of the District Courts has been curtailed to a larger extent. In respect of criminal and civil cases which are pending in courts across Jammu and Kashmir , special directions have been issued .
Not only on account of the threat of the dreaded virus which needs special focussed attention towards stopping it from getting spread, the decision in respect of only urgent matters to be heard has been necessitated also due to public transport being off the road, orders for lockdown which restrict mobility and especially now, the complete strict lockdown for full 21 days or till April 14 further legitimises and lends more weight-age to the revised guidelines of handling only most urgent cases. It also puts a bar for filing of fresh matters as there will be prohibition of filing of ordinary matters and such counters shall remain closed, even for preferring appeals against judgments and the like. Even the staff at the office of the Registry shall have to work in batches on rotational basis but restricting to minimum strength. Sending urgency memo through e- mail to the concerned Registrar in respect of urgent matters by the parties to urgent matters for listing them, is the option given under fresh directives. However, the nature and the extent of the urgency of a particular case shall be at the sole discretion of the court. These steps taken, are to be seen in the right perspective looking to a unique threat of coronavirus to people where the threat perception and possibility accentuates in public gatherings and hence close contacts needing to be discouraged.
While on the one hand several measures were being taken to clear as far as possible, pendency of cases in different courts for long time and the results were being monitored periodically, the restrictions in functioning of courts including the High Court were definitely going to suspend that process which under the circumstances, are absolutely unavoidable. Perhaps, in that spirit, in matters of hearing of extremely important cases, the High Court has agreed to allow the counsel appearing in the matters to join the video conferencing right from their respective offices. Since limitation or expiry dates falling within the period of restrictions are deemed to be effective from the resumption of filing by further orders or in other words, the intervening period shall not be computable for date of expiry, shall not alter the status of such cases in this respect. Since these orders are up to March 31, 2020 but we presume that in the light of strict lockdown for 21 days starting from March 25, these orders are likely to be extended beyond March 31, say up to April 15.
The most important aspect of the cases of granting remand, courts and magistrates are required to use video conferencing and in its absence, remote hearing by use of video call method shall be used. Likewise, all necessary measures are taken in emergency cases as all court officials, Presiding Officers of the courts etc would always remain available on call.