Chandigarh, July 31: More than four months after the Punjab and Haryana High Court went into restricted functioning mode following the Covid outbreak, it has further streamlined its working to hear about 1,000 cases daily with two-third of its strength functioning through video-conferencing.
Available information suggests the High Court was hearing just about 10 cases a day through video-conferencing even after lapse of about 50 days from the time it imposed restrictions on its functioning. Even till the first week of May, the High Court was hearing just about 100 cases a day, virtually turning it into a “denial of justice” phase, The Tribune reported.
It has over a period of time restructured and reorganised the entire system, with more than 30 judges holding virtual courts daily. As of now, four Division Benches and about 29 Single Benches are functioning on rotation.
The number is significant considering the fact that Covid has hit the judiciary hard during the previous days. It is believed that more than 70 officers and staff members have been quarantined after July 13 across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Prior to it more than 500 judicial officers, their families and staff in the two states and Chandigarh had been quarantined. Among the judicial officers tested positive for Covid-19 was a district and sessions judge. Three additional district and sessions Judges and judicial magistrates were also tested positive.
The secretary of a High Court judge was also tested positive, sending waves of apprehensions among the technical and other staff involved in the process of virtual hearing. The judge and others in contact with the secretary were later tested negative. But the incident did bring to fore the impossibility of shifting from virtual to physical form of hearing.
The High Court, as a result, is believed to be contemplating work from home for the judges. As a part of the novel arrangement, the judges will hear cases through video-conferencing only from the camp offices in their residences. As of now, some of the judges were working from their chambers in the High Court.