The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday asserted that "the availability of e-connectivity to the courts is an issue of ensuring access to justice to the citizens".
Calling it "a fundamental right", the Chief Justice-led bench declared that it "cannot be impeded in any manner".
"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 division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal proceeded to state.
The Court was taking stock of the lockdown situation in the UT, and addressing issues such as the availability of essentials in the far-flung areas of Gurez, Tangdhar, Machail and Uri, ensuring provision of care to dependents/families of healthcare personnel/government personnel/officials engaged in COVID-19 management, supply to doctors in government hospitals of sufficient quantities of personal protective equipments (PPEs) including goggles, face- shield, mask, gloves, coverall/gowns, head cover and shoe cover, safety of and violence against Healthcare Professionals and Clinical Establishments, plight of cattle and stray animals amidst the lockdown, and an action plan qua exit of COVID-19 Lockdown, besides the e-connectivity of courts.
These aforesaid observations were in context of an instance of burning of the converter and router installed in a Judicial Magistrate First Class's court in the Udhampur district last month.
The bench dispelled the argument advanced on behalf of service provider BSNL, by whose technicians the converter and the router were installed, that this equipment got burnt as the AC main supply was extended directly instead of through the UPS by the "Court authorities".
"We have no manner of doubt that installation of the above equipment which would include the converter and router stands undertaken by the BSNL and its officials. None of the court officers would have a capacity or the technical knowledge to do so. It would appear that the fault is attempted to be unreasonably fastened on court authorities without application of mind", the Court said, being satisfied with the findings of the Court Registrar (IT).
It directed BSNL to forthwith install the converter and router in the concerned court, mandating that an action report be filed within one week.
The bench also called for a fresh report on the status of providing e-connectivity to courts in the UTs from BSNL.
On being informed that in four court sites, there is some LAN IP conflict with regard to which communications have been addressed to NIC at Delhi, the Court required copies of these communications to be made available to its Registrar (IT) as well so that the Registrar (IT) can take up the matter with the concerned authorities. The Registrar (IT) is ordered to file a response in this regard before the next date of hearing.
With regard to ten sites for which VSAT facilities are needed, the bench noted that BSNL is reported to have addressed a letter to the Department of Justice as back as on 20th November 2019 and a response is awaited from the Department of Justice.
"Let the Secretary, Department of Justice, Government of India examine this issue on an urgent basis and ensure that the needful is done before the next date of hearing", the court directed.
It also recorded the assurance offered by the ASG that the matter will receive the urgent attention as is required and shall be immediately addressed.
Requiring a copy of the aforesaid letter to be given to the ASG, the Court ordered an action taken report to be filed before it by the next date of hearing.
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