REPRESENTATION FOR RESUMPTION OF PHYSICAL FUNCTIONING OF DELHI HIGH COURT
Hon’ble the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and his companion judges.
We are all faced with an unprecedented situation due to the outbreak of pandemic which has changed our lives in myriad ways. While the threat of Covid-19 and the seriousness of the situation cannot be undermined, the nation is faced with a situation where it is struggling to draw a balance between lives and livelihood.
The resultant lockdown situation has brought the functioning of the courts to a sudden grinding halt. Delhi High Court set an example by continuing to function for urgent matters through video conferencing. While the efforts of the High Court in limited functioning through video conferencing are commendable, it is an undeniable fact that hearings though video conferencing cannot be an effective substitute for physical functioning of courts for a multitude of reasons and it is now time to revisit the situation and give a serious thought to resumption of functioning of courts, with adequate safeguards for the health of all stakeholders.
While we are all alive to the harsh reality of the present situation, we as members of this institution, feel that efforts shall be made for early resumption of functioning of the courts as the judiciary being an important institution for justice dispensation, is no less important than other institutions like police stations, hospitals, Government offices, banks etc. which are functioning after partial lifting of lock down. The pandemic situation might last for some time the length of which cannot be accurately predicted as on date. The decision to resume physical functioning of the courts ought not to wait indefinitely as the same may result in compromising the lawful rights of the citizens and may lead to erosion of faith of people in the institution. The people of this country look up to this institution with great hope and such hope ought not be belied under any circumstances.
Resumption of physical courts can indeed be considered with adequate degree of precautions and safeguards like restricting the entry into court premises, courts taking up matters under different time slots, social distancing, maintenance of hygiene etc. We must appreciate that threat of the situation is for everyone but there is a larger interest of the litigant which requires protection too. By trying to secure the threat of Covid-19 through indefinite suspension of regular court functioning, the harm that may be caused to the hopes of the masses and the dignity of the institution may be quite irreversible.
We therefore request the Hon’ble Chief Justice and the Hon’ble Judges to rise to the occasion and consider an early resumption of functioning of regular courts. We have no manner of doubt that every member of the bar shall act responsibly to advance the cause of justice and extend requisite support to this endeavour.
Some of the implementable suggestions could be as under:
- To start with, only some courts may be made function preferably not in adjacent court rooms. Number of matters listed in a day before any court can be limited and tentative time slots can be indicated for the matters to be taken up.
- It can be a combination of physical functioning and video conferencing i.e. some courts functioning as regular courts and others through video conferencing;
- Entry of interns, clerks and litigants shall be restricted to the court building / rooms;
- Limited entry points into the court buildings; a sanitation tunnel shall be commissioned at the entry to the building; Installations of thermal scanners for scanning body temperature of all entrants;
- Seating capacity in the court rooms shall be reduced and norms put in place to limit the number of lawyers present in the court room;
- At any given time, only the counsels involved in the current matter and the next matter shall be allowed to be inside the court room and others shall be made to wait outside the court room while ensuring that there is no crowding at the entrance.
- Everybody entering the court building shall maintain social distancing protocol and wearing of masks for now should be made compulsory.
- Installation of sanitizer dispensers at each court room entrance and all other entry points.
- Adequate precautions and protocols can be put in place for use of common facilities and public conveniences.
These are only some of the suggested measures and the list is only demonstrative. The safeguards and protocols may have to be varied or amended as we go along.
I sincerely hope that our suggestions would be viewed in correct perspective and would assist the Hon’ble Judges in considering the issue of resumption of functioning of courts.
Sudhir K. Makkar