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"... e-connectivity to the courts is an issue of ensuring access to justice to the citizens. This is a fundamental right and cannot be impeded in any manner", the Court said.
In an observation that has assumed special significance with the rise of virtual hearings amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday took note that e-connectivity in courts was crucial to ensuring the fundamental right to access justice.
An order passed by the Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal states,
On the issues the Court has been monitoring in the suo motu PIL registered by it to deal with issues that arise out of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown concerns Court connectivity.
On Wednesday, the Bench was informed certain equipment meant to aid the connectivity (a converter and a router) in a Magistrate Court at Udhampur had burnt on account of faulty installation.
On the Court's direction the Registrar (IT) submitted a report over the incident, informing the Court that the Court officers did not have the capacity or technical knowledge to have been aware of how the equipment out to have been installed more safely through the use of a UPS stabiliser.
Finding merit in the Registrar's submission, the Court noted that, "It would appear that the fault is attempted to be unreasonably fastened on court authorities without application of mind."
The Bench proceeded to direct BSNL to install the converter and router at the Magistrate Court. An action taken report is also to be filed before the next date of hearing on June 10.
Among other issues taken up, the Court recorded its appreciation for the sensitive response of the Department of Social Welfare in ensuring care to the dependents/ families of healthcare personnel/ government personnel who are devoted to COVID-19 management issues.
A PIL moved over the plight of stray animals and cattle amid the lockdown was disposed of after taking note of the various extensive measures stated to have been undertaken to take case of their welfare. However, the Bench has taken note that the authorities are yet to clarify on the issue of scheduling availability of veterinary facilities. A report on the same is to be submitted to the Court in a week.
A PIL seeking sufficient provision of protective gear such as PPE etc. to healthcare warriors was also disposed of after taking note of the measures stated to have been taken on the issue and, consequently, finding that no directions was called for this Court. The Court confined to recording, "The Department shall ensure availability of the kits to all the healthcare personnel."
Concern was also raised about the plight of persons living in far flung areas as Gurez, Tangdhar, Machail, Uri, who were stated to be economically weak and in desperate need of basic requirements of survival.
The Bench noted that it was skeptical over whether the prayers made in this plea could be granted. However, it added, "the prayer though couched differently is really in the nature of cry for help for basic necessities from far flung areas of Kashmir."
The Court, therefore, raised notice on this is very critical issue and directed that the authorities ensure that essentials are made available to every person living in the Union Territory.