With virtual courts here to stay, Supreme Court judge, Justice D Y Chandrachud, has called upon High Court Chief Justices to do the needful to make hearings more easily accessible to physically challenged lawyers and litigants.
In a letter to the CJs, Justice Chandrachud, who also heads the SC’s eCommittee, pointed out that the creation of accessible infrastructure, including digital infrastructure, and an appropriate support system in the judiciary for lawyers and litigants with disabilities, is imperative in order to create a level playing field.
This, he stated, is a natural corollary of the right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 and the right to practice a profession of one’s choice under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
Dumping the responsibility of making the filings accessible on specially-abled lawyers would be like serving a file in a foreign language to an able-bodied lawyer, Justice Chandrachud wrote, and asked HCs and district judiciary to make necessary changes in the practices to enable this.
The letter noted that instead of printing and scanning submissions, lawyers should be required to file PDF documents, as they are prepared.
Only if there are hard copy annexures that need to be included in the paper-book would scanning them be necessary, Justice Chandrachud said. He added that these must then be saved as a PDF file, but only in Optical Character Recognition-based PDF format.
Care must be taken to ensure that stamps and watermarks are not placed on the page in such a way as would hamper smooth access, the letter said. It pointed out that judgments/orders are sometimes inaccessible due to the placement of watermarks on each page.
Underlining the need for making court websites more accessible and interactive to the specially abled lawyers, Justice Chandrachud stated that audio captchas must also be provided wherever entering visual captchas is a requirement to access any information. The high courts should consider making available on their websites the judgments in HTML format along with their PDF equivalent, he said.
Court websites must have clearly labeled buttons, and calendars to select dates must be accessible, the letter said adding this can be done by using a regular edit box for entering date, month and year, instead of using read only boxes.