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Lockdown impact: Jammu and Kashmir HC judges dealing with cases via landlines, mobile, WhatsApp


New Delhi: The unavailability of high speed internet has not deterred the Jammu and Kashmir High Court judges from dealing with cases amid the lockdown.

Judges are hearing arguments on landlines and mobile phones from lawyers who do not have access to the internet. For those lawyers who are unable to connect with the videoconferencing system of the court, judges are allowing them to connect through WhatsApp video call.

“Need of the hour is flexibility and making necessary arrangements to ensure smooth functioning of the court. One cannot afford to be rigid at this hour,” said a senior court official.

The court had been frequently using Vidyo, a web application to hold videoconferencing for cases. However, after the lockdown, some cases came up which involved multiple lawyers. The official quoted above cited one such case, a PIL seeking relief in the wake of lockdown, which involved multiple lawyers. “While the lawyers residing in Jammu were able to connect to the videoconferencing through Vidyo, the lawyers from Kashmir had no access to internet. They were allowed to call up the judge’s staff on their mobile phones and address their arguments on normal phone calls,” he said.

Another senior official said: “In a state where even the 2G network is a luxury, it would be unfair to delay proceedings of urgent matters citing rules. The endeavour is to foster the smooth process of justice than delay it.” In a related development, the court has decided to take up other cases in addition to urgent matters.

In a letter to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, the registrar general stated that the court directed the registry to compile a list of 15 categories of cases which can be disposed of through videoconferencing during the lockdown. The letter, which was sent a fortnight ago, stated that “during the lockdown, efforts are being made to review pending cases. It has been noticed that there are many cases which may have been rendered infructuous or, even though they do not involve any question of law or any complicated issue of fact, are unnecessarily pending and clogging the boards of the Courts. There is possibility of easily disposing of these matters on videoconferencing”. The letter further state “the registry has been asked to compile a list of such cases and to ascertain their digitisation status”.

Officials said nearly 45,000 cases fall under such categories and the court aims to dispose of about 7,000 cases in a month. The letter said: “Though lockdown conditions have made it difficult to leave our homes, it may be possible for counsels to scrutinise their own records…ascertain matters which can be disposed of on videoconferencing without counsels being required to leave their residence.”

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