Keep  Courts physically closed till normalization of the COVID-19 pandemic situation: Letter petition before Allahabad High Court

Keep Courts physically closed till normalization of the COVID-19 pandemic situation: Letter petition before Allahabad High Court

On May 4, a notification was issued intimating that the High Court would be opened from May 8 onwards, to sit in two shifts. While challenging this move, it is urged that the Court increase its virtual presence instead.

Shruti Mahajan

An Advocate practising at the Allahabad High Court has written a letter petition to the Chief Justice of the High Court to keep the Court's Benches in Lucknow and Allahabad physically closed until the national COVID-19 lockdown is lifted, given the worsening situation of the pandemic.

In light of worsening situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Advocate Shashwat Anand has urged the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to keep the Courts physically closed, suggesting that the Court increase its virtual presence instead, as long as the pandemic persists.

On May 4, it was intimated that the High Court's Benches at Allahabad and Lucknow would reopen from May 8 onwards, to sit in two sessions from May 8 onwards, amid the third leg of the COVID-19 lockdown.

More recently, the High Court issued detailed guidelines covering the functioning of District Courts covered under different zones demarcated by the Government i.e. green, orange, and red, depending on the risk of COVID-19 spread. These guidelines are also set to kick in from May 8.

Registering objection to these developments, the petitioning lawyer says that the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) dated May 1 which extended the nation-wide lockdown for a further period ending on May 17 should have primacy.

The MHA order, the lawyer says, is, "well-founded, based upon quantified data, stats, scientific, medical and risk assessment and owing to the unforeseeability of the loss or damage that may ensue to human life, health and safety and the insurmountable dangers involved, due to the lack of scientific certainty as to the probable hazard, prevails as a precautionary measure and principle."

He argues that the order issued by the High Court on its administrative side is, therefore, liable to be set aside being "repugnant" and "hit by" MHA's order regarding the extension of the nation-wide lockdown.

Arguing in favour of keeping the Courts physically closed, Anand highlights the numbers available in public domain suggests that the COVID-19 situation has been worsening. As such, he argues,

"If the Courts so open for physical presence, it is highly likely that the chances of COVID-19 transmission and spread shall increase manifold and the Advocates and the High Court staff members would be bound to overlook and slight the lockdown guidelines and preventive measures put in place."
Shahswat Anand

Anand further states that despite preventive measures in place, there are bound to be lapses in the vigilance of individuals. Considering that Indians are "very laid back people", the norms of maintaining safe distance and other precautionary measures are bound to be flouted as is evident from various recent incidents, Anand adds.

As an alternative to starting physical Courts, Anand suggests that the number of Benches sitting for virtual Courts may be increased so that more cases are heard. He also says that the process of e-filing may be streamlined to make it hassle-free for the convenience of the Court staff, litigants, and the lawyers.

Anand thus, prays that virtual functioning of Courts may continue for the time being instead of physical functioning of the same.

Read the Letter:

Letter Petition to CJ of Alld HC for non-opening of Courts from 8 May, in the wake of nation-wide lockdown and worsening of COVID-19 pandemic situation. (1).pdf
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