Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Author: Aalok Gaur
Student,III semester, B.A.LL.B., FIMT-School of Law, GGSIPU
The COVID-19 virus has not only radically changed our daily lives but also affecting the Indian justice system. With the advancement in technology, the judicial system of our country has been left unable to cop up with its pace. Still our legal system is based on offline mode with all records been made in file modes. So it is the demand of the time and situation to update our legal system. Hence, courts, jails, prisons and law firms are all altering the way they conduct business due to COVID-19, and the impact is likely to grow.
Addressing the dangers of corona virus may exacerbate the significant backlog of cases in High courts and Supreme courts.
Courts all over are addressing the pandemic differently. Recently, the Supreme Court conducted an online demo of the proposed e-filling module through a webinar attended by CJI Bobde. During the webinar, CJI observed that e-filling is the first step in moving towards the e-court system. Owing to these changing times, thousands of courts across the country, in addition to the Supreme Court, have been conducting hearings through video conferencing.
Similar to this, the Bar Council of India has recently issued an administrative order stating that no coats/gowns/robes are to be worn by Lawyers across India, as a precautionary measure.
There is a line of thought within the legal community that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic represents an opportunity for the legal sector to modernize. The argument goes that this would be a good time for the courts to introduce e-filling, to permit electronic signatures, or to carry out more video-based hearings. This is a chance for the law firms, it is said, to shift their practices to the online mode or enable lawyers to work easily from home. It’s an opportunity for the law schools to start getting the hang of remote teaching. And so on.
Another impact of this pandemic is that the judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys across the country have worked on releasing non-violent offenders from jails, as a result of the fear of crowded jails becoming hotbeds of infection. Within a matter of couple of weeks, the numbers of inmates in jails have decreased substantially. The impact of these releases remains to be seen, but if things go well, the question will become whether the criminal justice system will use this as a springboard for broader reform aimed at reducing overall incarceration and relying more often on alternatives to incarceration.
The United States of America, having the most devastating impact of the novel corona virus, has also seen the major effect of corona virus on its judicial system, with the Supreme Court closing its doors to visitors. The 9th Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over areas particularly hard hit by the virus in Washington and California, cancelled all hearings. Arizona has authorized judges to suspend local court rules and orders, if needed. Some jurisdictions have excused people over 60 years old from jury duty as well as litigants who may be vulnerable to the virus from court proceedings. So, the impact of the corona virus pandemic can be seen on various countries’ legal and judicial systems too and every country is finding up new ways to cop up with it.
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