High Court of Jammu & Kashmir
High Court of Jammu & Kashmir
Litigation News

Impossible to have "even a bare semblance of a hearing", Jammu & Kashmir HC summons Home Secy over poor Internet, e-connectivity of courts

"Access to justice is a fundamental right and cannot be impeded. It has to be ensured to every citizen and courts are required to remain accessible", the Court noted.

Meera Emmanuel

Taking serious note that it had been impossible to conduct even a "bare semblance of a hearing" on Monday on account of internet connectivity issues, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court has summoned the Home Secretary of the union territory to explain the impact of the prevailing internet speed restrictions on the functioning of courts (Court on its Own Motion v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and ors).

The order passed by a Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar notes that virtual hearings have been necessitated during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

The Bench goes on to point out that it is concerned with several urgent issues concerning the rights of residents in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Bench highlighted that,

"... we find today that despite best efforts on the part of our IT experts, it has been impossible today to have even a bare semblance of a hearing. We have struggled to have virtual/or audio connectivity with the amicus curiae and the several counsels appearing before us. Even the learned Advocate General has expressed grave difficulty in joining the hearing."

On Monday, the Bench headed by Chief Justice was constrained to adjourn at least two other matters specifically citing internet connectivity issues.

An order noting that connectivity issues were the reason for adjournment, dated July 13
An order noting that connectivity issues were the reason for adjournment, dated July 13

With similar issues being faced while hearing the suo motu case to monitor issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic as well, the Court proceeded to emphasise,

"Access to justice is a fundamental right and cannot be impeded. It has to be ensured to every citizen and courts are required to remain accessible. "
Jammu & Kashmir High Court

Similar observations were also made by the Court in its order passed last month, when it had emphasised,

"In the current times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant restrictions, no court can discharge essential judicial functions if there is non- availability of e-connectivity."

The Bench on Monday noted that back in May this year, the Supreme Court had directed the constitution of a Committee at the highest level to review the internet restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.

In this backdrop, the Bench proceeded to summon the Home Secretary to apprise it of the present scenario, stating,

"Given the extreme difficulty being faced by us, let Mr. Shaleen Kabra, Home Secretary appear before us through Video Conferencing and apprise this court about the impact of the restrictions on e-connectivity of the courts."
Jammu & Kashmir High Court

The matter will be taken up next on Thursday, July 16.

Read the July 13 order:

Court on its Own Motion v. UT of J&K - July 13 order.pdf
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