By Tanya Vashishtha
Delhi high court has constituted a committee headed by Justice Hima Kohli to create a graded action plan for meeting challenges that may appear when the courts move towards normal functioning post the lockdown.
The court has also asked all the district and sessions courts in the city to collect the inputs from the Bar Association of their respective court complexes for the “phased/graded restoration to normalcy plan” for the courts in Delhi.
The notification states that:
‘During such suspension of functioning, the hearing of the cases is limited to matters of extremely urgent nature or urgent nature. There has been negligible filing of fresh cases during the lockdown, it can be thus expected that there would be a deluge of fresh cases on return to normalcy which may be quite difficult to handle. All these problems pose a big challenge to the justice delivery system.’
Highlighting that there are almost 8 lakh cases pending before the district court and around 80,000 before the High Court, it would not be feasible to open the courts immediately for everyone after the lockdown.
‘Therefore, the moment courts are thrown open, it would be difficult to control the rush for ensuring all important and crucial aspects related to social-distancing. Obviously, the courts cannot be converted into hotspots’, the letter states.
The letter further claims that it may not be possible at this juncture to predict a define cut-off date for resumption of normal functioning of the court system, considering that there is no certainty when the threat of pandemic will be over and the requirement of social-distancing , no longer necessary.
Therefore, it states that, return to normalcy would require a graded action plan in a phased manner, in advance. While highlighting that the involvement of the Bar Association will be necessary to ensure the success of any such plan, the letter puts down the following concerns that need to be addressed by any such plan:
- Gradual expansion in stages, of the nature of cases to put in ‘urgent’ category for the purpose of hearing by enlisting. Well defined categories of priority cases.
- Ensuring availability of proportionate court infrastructure during all these phases till restoration of complete normalcy.
- Making guidelines for restricting entry into courts and social distancing norms to be followed in the court complexes for all the stake holders including judges, court staff, lawyers and litigants.
- Preparing guidelines for restricting entry into lawyers’ chamber areas in the court complex and social distancing norms to be followed in such area.
- Running of public utility service and canteen etc. in the court complexes.
- Availability of infrared thermometer, masks, gloves, sanitizers for all the stake holders. Installation of sensor-based devices, whatever possible to ensure minimum hand-contact.
- Appropriate alternate to centralize air-conditioning system.