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"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.
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,
On Monday, the Bench headed by Chief Justice was constrained to adjourn at least two other matters specifically citing internet connectivity issues.
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,
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,
The matter will be taken up next on Thursday, July 16.
Read the July 13 order: