Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Gita Mittal on Saturday said the court has “done well” during the Covid-19 crisis, notwithstanding the unavailability of internet in the state.
“No matter what be the 2G or 4G availability but we have done very well. We have had continuous sittings of judges with one judge in either city, it is not even within the same city. Now with the advent of Covid, the first challenge as a Chief Justice was to run a court and ensure access to justice to the common man by ensuring that courts ran. I was very reluctant to shut down the courts. I kept on going despite a lot of objections till almost the last minute. I had no choice but to shut it down when the lockdown came…,” Justice Mittal said, replying to a query at an online colloquium organised by the Jindal Global Law School.
The High Court, which has wings both in Srinagar and Jammu, is hearing only matters requiring urgent intervention like other high courts in the country. However, the ban on high-speed 4G internet has resulted in additional difficulties in hearing of cases through video conferencing. On April 28, a division bench of the HC had to adjourn a case “on account of poor connectivity” and “non-availability of proper video conferencing facility”.
Justice Mittal conceded in her answer at the webinar that there have been challenges, adding, however, that the HC during the pandemic took suo motu cognisance of the fact that students were stuck in Iran, after receiving a lot of emails, and later combined another writ petition from Srinagar with it.
“Now I had to hear lawyers and parties-in-person sitting in Srinagar as well as in Jammu. So, on any particular day of hearing, I have at least 15 parties in the matter — so I have about 8 people on the screen before me and all the others who have difficulties in hearing are joined either by video call or WhatsApp call or on a landline. I have had to innovate but we have done very well in Jammu & Kashmir,” she said, adding they have also been hearing matters over phone calls.
Justice Mittal also said that people also need to talk about trials courts in context of virtualisation of courts. “That is where justice has to be delivered and that is where the common man and woman go first for justice. That is where there is a huge infrastructure deficit,” she added.
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