COVID 19 AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Written by: Daksh Khandal, Student, S. S. Jain Subodh Law College, Jaipur
As it is seen that from 2019 itself the e-Committee of Apex Court was working with project of Virtual Courts. It was constatly bringing new changes in system and working of courts especially the Supreme Court and High Courts and up to a extent to District Courts.
Now in the present scenario of Covid 19 where all the courts are physically shut down and people are in lockdown, working of all institutions are stopped. But in such a situation courts cannot be shut or lockdown for so long as there are urgency in matters and if the functioning of courts will be fully stop it will create inconvenience to the people and may take them in a situation where their fundamental rights will be infringed. As we know the number of criminal cases in courts are very high as compared to other matters and if in such matters of urgency a proper redressal on time will not be provided will lead problem like people who are arrested and have applied for bail applications are not able to proceed with the same and have to stuck down in prison without proper trial and will infringe his fundamental right to move freely in the country. There are other certain serious problems arise due to complete closure of courts. So courts cannot stop working. Now the need of use of technology arises that is need of virtual courts for ensuring working of courts providing trial to people and thus access justice to them. And here the project so going on help the courts to overcome these problems and within a very short span of time the use of internet for court working started. Cases are heared online through video conferences, the system of e-filing was made active other setup were made for ensuring that proper proceeding can be held. Link of video conference were sent through emails, different documents between judges and advocates and also between advocates and clients are shared using different e-platforms including e-mails and whatsapp. So the need of the hour was addressed by using basic structure our courts have, and extending it to a large extent. The major hurdle in e-courts is network issues and constant efforts are made by the team or committe for solving them.
Courts Active Role During Pandemic:
After the lockdown announced a lot of efforts, steps and decision were taken by the Apex Court and different High Courts with the sole motive of providing access to justice to all the members of the society. To ensure justice the petition that are of urgent nature and needs instant redressal are taken first especially issues that are just arising because of the pandemic such petition were given priority to ensure that proper action to be taken by different departments, ministry and public offices so that situations can be controlled before getting worsed. It also using its powers under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India take suo moto cognizance of the matter so that rather that waiting someone to approach the court the issue to be taken by court on its own and provide the necessary directions. It very judiciously without interfering in the acts of governments try to develop a balance between issues to be handled by governments and issues that need judicial consideration. Simultaneously it is also having a check on the acts of governments so that no part of the society left out and all are to be provided with proper facilties and justice. Some of the instances where the courts have actively played a major role are discussed below :
One of the issue that arised during the covid 19 when the medical staff was visiting different places to identify the people have virus symptoms at that time in certain places like Indore incidents were reported where doctors were attacked by people and spitted on them. In this situation Supreme Court directed that Government should take necessary action for protection of medical staff. And the government come with an ordinance for punishing such people. So the pro active role of Supreme Court help in providing proper condition of work to medical staff. In follow up recently Supreme Court has also directed to provide proper remuneration and accommodation to heath workers treating Covid 19 patients.
Another issue regarding the migrant workers who are in order to reach home and in absence of transportation covering the distance by walking kilometres and this is leading them into verse situation. In this situation as well Supreme Court taking the matter suo moto directed government to take proper steps for providing proper assistance to the workers and after that Central Government and State governments co-ordinated and try to provide proper transportation to these migrant workers. Special trains work started for the workers and other necessary steps were taken. So in this situation taking the matter by the apex court try to provide access to justice to these migrants.
One more issue that is maintenance of proper health requirements in the hospitals so that proper treatment should be given to the patients and mishandling the covid affected dead bodies. In this matter also taking the the issue suo Moto by the court it directed the state governments and the central government to take the necessary steps immediately for the welfare of the people who are are under treatment in the hospitals. In accordance of this court has issued notice to Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal over Covid 19 management.
Other than this certain instant decisions were taking by the courts regarding their functioning some of them are as follows :
For extending the period of time that has to followed in compliance of Limitation Act. 
The period of interim order were extended. If any hardships has to be faced by the people in their cases can addresses the same to the courts that are conducted virtually.
The authorities were directed that after considering different aspects like nature of offence committed, the duration of punishment the convict has completed and some other aspects they may release the prisoners on interim bail and parol.
The matters were taken by the court on ascertaining the urgency of the matter, matters such as bail were considered to be the urgent ones and are provided due importance. Bails are granted without the surities as in these circumstances it is very difficult to have surities and Supreme Court directed to release the person seeking bail on personal bonds and same is followed by Delhi High Court.
There was one more problem arised that is providing courts with affidavits and court fees. For this certain relaxations were given like court fees can be deposited online by using portal. Alternatively for court fees and affidavit a sytem of providing undertaking for the same to the court is given where a the party or the advocate assure the court that once the situation will become normal and physical courts start working properly due fees and affidavit will be provided to the court at the earliest possible. So this step was taken so that functioning of courts did not hamper.
So Supreme Court and other courts taking a pro active approach tries to address all the issues that are faced by the people during this pandemic and providing necessary directions for the same. This all has been done by the courts to access justice to each and every citizen of the country during such tough times. Justice to the people should not be denied and courts are working now with more focus on extending the access to justice to more and more people. Taking issues suo moto and providing a preference and urgent hearing to the cases related to matters that address grievances of large number of people with motive of providing immediate justice to them during this pandemic are efforts taken by courts to prevail justice in the society.
From the above it can be concluded that at the present time where it is difficult to function the Court are trying to ensure and access to justice to all. By taking different decision at a quick note to ensuring proper working of courts , conducting the proceedings of the court virtually, and providing directions to the government from time time to work in more efficient manner courts are working at their best level to ensure justice to all. Different exemption were provided in the process of court and limitation of time period in cases, courts ensure that no party to the case suffer because of this unpredictable situation.
So working in a pro active role courts are trying to provide access to justice to the citizens. And up till now they are successful in doing so. Yet there are many issues pending and more yet to come that courts have to deal with, but the judiciary will definitely cover up all that and will keep ensuring access to justice.
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