Tuesday, March 28

‘Tech use must for better functioning of judiciary’

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Despite best efforts, hearings of bail and anticipatory bail petitions fell by 30%-40% during the lockdown while nearly no civil cases could be heard, Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the Calcutta High Court said during a webinar on Impact of Covid-19 on Justice Dispensing System on Saturday. According to him, efforts were made for relaxations during the lockdown to allow physical courts to perform but the administration had to back down due to the crowding inside courtrooms and lack of social distancing.

“We have to start making use of technology. Probably, this is a positive side effect of Covid-19. Despite the pandemic, the judiciary continued to function. During the lockdown, one or two courtrooms were dedicated to state lawyers in the high court to allow them to function. This could have happened in the lower courts as well. E-filing has certainly been a problem. There is no infrastructure. I have spoken to the government regarding payment of state fees. There are problems in the lower judiciary due to lack of connectivity and fewer smart phones,” Justice Banerjee said.

He referred to the lack of sufficient funds and how this has brought down the judge-population and policepopulation ratio to a dismal level. Justice Banerjee also agreed with former Supreme Court judge Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly on how such problems have sometimes kept citizens from enjoying their Fundamental Rights. Apart from Justice Banerjee and Justice Ganguly (retd), the event was attended by Justice Soumen Sen of the Calcutta High Court, Justice Chittatosh Mookerjee, former chief justice of the Calcutta and Bombay high courts, senior advocates Anindya Mitra, Jayanta Mitra and advocate general Kishore Dutta among others.

“It is a herculean task for the judiciary. In my career spanning 40 years, I have never faced such a situation. Questions have been raised on certain judgments of the courts in the country but people still have faith in the judiciary. The common man hardly has any access to hearings conducted virtually,” Justice Ganguly said.

Dutta said that the judiciary will have to continue functioning despite problems. “Not only the Supreme Court and high courts, even subordinate courts will have to start functioning virtually. Infrastructure has to be created for this. Apart from bail and anticipatory bail applications that are important, new issues like depression and domestic violence that have cropped up due to the lockdown will also have to be taken up for hearing,” the AG said.

Source: Times of India

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