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Indian Courts Amid Covid-19

Coronavirus Disease (COVID19) finds its origin in the Wuhan, Hubei Province in China in December 2019. The COVID19 infection is spread mainly from one person to the other, often during sneezing and coughing, via droplets produced from the respiratory system of the infected person. The symptoms of COVID19 are similar to common cold and include respiratory symptoms like dry cough, fever, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. 

On 24th March, 2020, the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown of 21 days limiting the movement of the entire 1.3 billion population of India. The lockdown was imposed when the total number of positive cases in India was 500 (approx). The Government of India confirmed  the first case of Coronavirus in the country on 30th January, 2020 in the State of Kerala. 

Prohibitions On Movement

The lockdown restricted the people from stepping out of their houses. The rail, road and air services were suspended with exceptions on the movement of the essential goods, fire, police and emergency services. Educational institutions and industrial establishments were also suspended. The government held meetings with e-commerce websites and vendors to ensure seamless supply of essential goods across the nation during the lockdown period.

On 22nd March, 2020, the government announced that India Railways would suspend the operation of passenger trains while the freight service will continue its operation for the supply of essential goods across the nation.

Indian Courts During COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic and the current nationwide lockdown has made it vital that the justice delivery system continues functioning  without disturbing the practice of social distancing. To make the shift towards technology, the Supreme Court of India on 23rd March, 2020.  The CJI S.A. Bobde declared that the court will only take urgent matters. Counsel appearing in case will be allowed to join  the video conference from their offices.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta called it a welcome step. With the advancement in the technology, there is a possibility of even Judges sitting at the place of their choosing and hearing matters through video conferencing.

He also mentioned that, though the Civil Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Rules framed for the High Courts and Supreme Court provides for the “seat” of the court; it does not provide for the venue of the court. 

Supreme Court of India

Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India & Ors. (8th April, 2020)

In an important order, two judge bench, comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Ravindra S Bhat passed an interim order. The Supreme Court that COVID-19 testing done by both government and private laboratories be free of cost. The Supreme Court observed that- 

We find prima facie substance in the submission of petitioner that at this time of national calamity permitting private Labs to charge Rs.4500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to non-payment of capped amount of Rs.4500. It is submitted before us that insofar as Government Laboratories are concerned the COVID-19 test is conducted free of cost.

Supreme Court Issues Notice For Restoration of 4G Internet Services In J&K Amid Lockdown  (09th April, 2020)

The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice B.R. Gavai on Thursday issued notice for the restoration of 4G internet services in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir during COVID-19 pandemic. The notice was issued to the standing counsel of Jammu & Kashmir.

Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, Advocates Shadan Farasat and Apar Gupta appeared for the petitioner via Video Conferencing. Ahmadi submitted that in view of lockdown, it is extremely necessary to enhance technology and connectivity in Jammu & Kashmir.

Ahmadi also mentioned about the importance of enhancement of technology for virtual classes of students.

The PIL filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals challenged the government order which restricted the internet speed in mobile data services to 2G only, for being violative of Articles 14, 19, 21 & 21A of Constituion of India. 

Bombay High Court

Court Grants Ad-interim Relief To A Law Student Challenging Expulsion  (09th April, 2020)

Bombay High Court Bench of Justice G.S. Patel on its first case taken via online granted ad-interim relief to a first year law student in a plea filed against her expulsion from the college.

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Mohit Bharadwaj told the Court that the petitioner and her parents were not informed for the grounds of her expulsion and the petitioner was also denied an opportunity to be heard and disproportionate action for expulsion was taken against her.

Therefore, Justice Patel granted ad-interim relief to the student, effectively suspending the expulsion and allowing the student to take her internal exam. 

Madras High Court

Less Time Consuming, Helpful To Analyze Exact Scenario  (09th April, 2020)

The Madras High Court on Thursday while dismissing a petition filed by two Korean nationals observed that, adjudicating matters through video conferencing makes it less time consuming and becomes easier to ascertain accurately what the situation is.

In this regard, Justice S. Vaidyanathan observed-
I wish to emphasize that, there are advantages in hearing cases through Whatsapp Video Call, and the fact remains that, it is less time-consuming, and it will be helpful to analyze the exact scenario of each case, so as to arrive at a definite conclusion, as was done in the case on hand.- Madras High Court 

What Lies Ahead.....
It is to be believe that with the advancement in the technology, it will not only reduce the physical work force but it will also reduce the overcrowding of the courts/courtrooms.
The Supreme Court has already taken firm steps forward , which is expected to continue in the long run as well, such as e-filing and mentioning via electronic means. Technology has the capacity to revolutionise our legal system and it is time for our courts to fully welcome it and embrace it.

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