- Apprentice Lawyer
Supreme Court judge, Justice DY Chandrachud who heads the e-committee, has written to Chief Justices of all High Courts stressing the need to create accessible infrastructure including digital ecosystem which can enable and ensure participation of physically challenged lawyers and litigants in legal profession on an equal footing with others.
Justice Chandrachud has stated that this obligation is a natural corollary of the right to equality guaranteed to lawyers and litigants with disabilities under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the right to practice a profession of one’s choice under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.
Noting that the Supreme Court website now has a fully functional audio captcha, the letter underscores the importance of having accessible websites.
Justice Chandrachud has also stated that the onus to make filings accessible cannot be placed on disabled lawyers as it would be akin to serving a file to an able-bodied lawyer in a foreign language.
The high courts and district judiciary has been asked that instead of requiring a disabled lawyer to seek case-by-case intervention, the existing filing practices be reconfigured taking into account of their needs.
Some of the suggestions put forth by Justice Chandrachud for the urgent consideration of High Courts are:
1. Instead of printing and scanning their submissions, lawyers should be required to file PDF documents, as they are prepared. The pleadings made in Microsoft word can easily be Saved as PDF files.
2. If there are hard copy annexures that need to be made part of the paper-book, these can be scanned. They must then be saved as a PDF file, but only in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) based PDF format.
3. Stamps and watermarks should not be placed on the page in a way that hampers smooth access.
4. Courts must also ensure that court websites become more accessible for disabled lawyers.
5. Wherever entering visual captchas is a requirement to access any information, audio captchas must also be provided.
6. Judgments/orders are sometimes inaccessible due to the placement of watermarks on each page which must be done away with.
7. The High Courts should consider releasing judgments in HTML format on their websites, along with their PDF equivalent.
8. Court websites must have Clearly labeled buttons, and calendars to select dates must be accessible. This can be done by using a regular edit box for entering date, month and year, instead of using read only boxes.
"I earnestly request you to ensure that steps are taken in that direction both by the High Court and by the district judiciary," Justice Chandrachud has urged while concluding his letter.