Effect of COVID -19 on Indian Judiciary

Effect of COVID -19 on Indian Judiciary

Humans have reigned supreme since their appearance on the earth. They  have evolved through ages and reached this stage of dominance with highly  developed powers of their brain. Man had been and has been still struggling to  make his life more comfortable and secure, but the history proves that his life  never ran smooth. Natural as well as artificial calamities like earthquake, flood,  fire, famine, warfare, epidemic and pandemic diseases have kept his/her progress in check. COVID-19 is one such type of nuisance to man. Emerged in  China in December 2019 COVID -19 is infectious disease caused by the most  recently discovered novel corona virus. It is now pandemic and affecting the  human life in general and/or globally. Invisible to the naked human eye, it  caused a great upheaval in every sphere and field of human life. Its influence is  being felt in education, politics, administration, economy, sanitation, media, agriculture, industry and film industry, transportation, communication, business, market and medical field. So, how can we expect the judicial system to remain  unaffected by it. Judiciary being one of the four pillars of Indian democracy the  impact of COVID -19 on it is felt very strongly. The conditions are changing  day by day. So the information and the data we know about the impact of  COVID -19 on judiciary is evolving and what we know today is based on the  current situations.  

The government has to enact the enforced lockdown for 21 days to stop the  spread of pandemic disease. The extended lockdown for the whole country and  the time and again local curfews have exerted a potent influence on judiciary.  Judicial system has several aspects to deal with reference to impact of COVID - 19, but the most important and directly related to justice are taken into account  in this overview.

1) Delay in Justice: 

The first thing that heavily strikes us is delay in justice. The ancient proverb  “Delay in justice is justice denied” is looming large in the present scenario of  judiciary. It is known to everyone in India of vast territory and exploded  population that Indian courts are overburdened with numerous pending cases  since years. The more is everyday many new cases are being lodged only to be  pending. The statistical data of pending cases on internet i.e. three crore cases is a wondrous thing. 

Against the lockdown period the people involved in trials find it impossible  to keep them physically present in the court and attend the sessions due to no  means of public transportation and the imposition of strict rules on private  transportation. Even the lawyers and advocates face many problems to attend 

the court on due date and time. So it takes long time to resolve the case and to  announce the final verdict of the court. The long time of interval between the  lodging of complaint and the final judgement illegally allows the criminal  unnecessary freedom. This affects the victim psychologically and changes  his/her outlook towards judicial system. 

2) Difficulties in Procedural Rights of Suspected and Accused Persons: Considering the number of cases and persons involved in that cases, it is  tiresome and time-consuming task to deal with suspected and accused persons. The lockdown policy avoids crowds at public places and allows social  distancing which creates certain difficulties in following the procedural rights of  suspected and accused persons. The absence or distance of suspected and  accused persons comes in the way of direct communication with them and the  lawyer and interpreters find problems in handling the cases. Indian prisons inmates are divided into two groups. 1) The convicted prisoners under sentence  and 2) The innocents waiting for trial. Here are our concern is for second type  of prison inmates, who are not convicted but waiting for trial. If the cases are  solved with minimum time duration and the convicted sent to undergo 

punishment and innocent to be free the justice will be done to both the inmates.  Because keeping innocents within prison for a long time is denying justice to  them. 

3) Virtual Courts and Classrooms: 

It is known to everyone that even the face to face and open courts have many  old and pending cases. Even in the real courts as opposed to virtual courts  events and situations take a dramatic turns and the cases and judgements end in  the unexpected ways. The virtual court may not have proper effects of the real  court. Again the problems of mobile network, power supply, compatibility of  mobile, clarity of voice and picture and other technical problems may arise in  the virtual courts that can badly affect the sessions.  

To say about virtual classrooms, though they are live, they are not as lively  as the real classrooms. Besides the aforesaid problems there are limitations on  the two-way communications. This has resulted to one more problem in Indian  education system, which is my next point. 

4) Decrease in the Number of Law Students: 

It is said that if one wants to destruct any country, one has to damage its  educational system. It seems true, because the educational policy is the  backbone of any country. Today’s children’s are tomorrow’s citizens, and they  will behave the way they are taught. The lockdown due to COVID -19 has  badly affected the educational system. The schools and colleges are shut down  since March 2019. Even the exams are cancelled. Without learning and taking exams the students are admitted to the next classes, but the new academic year  in June 2020 created confusion in the minds of students. It is shown in the  decrease in number of students in professional courses like law. If these  decrease continuous there will be scarcity of lawyers in future. The few  admitted students also have to rely on online education with so many  difficulties.

According to the report of TRAI (2020) only 68.45 crore out of 137 crore  peoples use mobile phones and only 36% people in rural area and 64% peoples  in urban area use internet facility. In a developing country like India it is not  possible and affordable to every student to own computer or laptop or phone to  use it as a learning device. The economically weaker section students are taking  educational loans, but except utilising it on education they are using it to  complete their basic needs. 

5) Minimising Session of Court Hours: 

Supreme Court’s thinking of minimising the court hours is also illogical.  Already there are millions of pending cases and minimizing court hours will  increase their and upcoming cases number. Rather another parallel or a similar  system needs to be created to resolve the cases and reduce their number. Like  Lok Adalat sessions, which have been paused should be started for speedy  dismissal of pending cases. 

6) No Social Distancing: 

The Supreme Court and government implements new safety measures to  overcome the spread of corona-virus. It is welcome, but the makers of law  should not be the breakers of law. Criminals are social evils and they come up  with new faces every day. So the new cases come up daily and the persons  involved become part of judiciary. The police personnel and criminals take it as  a routine thing and do not follow proper social distancing thereby allowing the  spread of a fearful disease in a way. Constant coming and going can spread the  disease in prison inmates and put their lives in risk. 

In court sessions the physical interaction is unavoidable, where the files  and documents need to be exchanged. In such cases a proper sanitization  process be used.

7) Releasing of Criminals:

Impact of COVID -19 has touched each and every aspect of judicial system. To keep the spread of corona virus in check the government and Supreme Court  make new laws and issue new circulars. Considering the large number of  criminals and to avoid the risk involved in keeping them crowded in prison the  Supreme Court instructed all states and union territories to release the criminals  on temporary bail or on Parole. 1The apex court had cited an instance and said,  “For instance, the State/Union Territory could consider the release of prisoners  who have been convicted or are under-trial for offences for which prescribed  punishment is up to 7 years or less, with or without fine and the prisoner has  been convicted for a lesser number of years than the maximum.” This is a  precautious step, but after all releasing criminals is a dangerous thing. Out of jail their criminal nature may enable them to commit more 2criminal activities.  Many peoples disagree with courts this action of releasing criminals against  COVID -19 impact. 

Conclusion – 

In view of foregoing discussion it can be said that COVID -19 has powerful  effect on Indian Judiciary. What the future has in store is unknown but it has  shaken the world and its judicial system. 

1 Hindustan Times News, May 12, 2020. (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/maharashtra-panel decides-to-release-50-of-prisoners-on-temporary-bail-to-prevent-spread-of-covid-19/story U2yob9EHSa5TJXai12tHEI.html) 

2India Today News, July 19, 2020.( https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/coronavirus-released-on parole-criminals-get-back-action-crime-surges-1702067-2020-07-19)

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