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Impact of Covid 19 on the Judicial System

Impact of Covid 19 on the Judicial System 
- Bhavna

“Necessity is the mother of invention”


Outbreak off coronavirus, India China dispute, USA and China testing Nuclear weapons, Economic crises, People gathering in masses and more. This is in our newspaper.   

Form last few months the World is dealing with unprecedented crises known as CORONA  

VIRUS Pandemic, which was officially declared by WHO as a Pandemic on 11 February 2020.    

Needless to say, the outbreak of Covid 19 has left its adverse effect all spheres of life have been affected alike and the judicial system is no exception. 


The framers of the constitution had never imagined that one day, two of the 3 organs of the State will virtually stop functioning. But, that is exactly what is happening in India today.   

Needlessly to say, that the outbreak of Covid19 has left its impact on Judiciary in various way.   

The Supreme court of India, has  issued guidelines for Court functioning. Such as hearing only urgent cases and mandatory electronic filing, restraining hearing only critical cases and conducting them through video conference.   

1.Increase in  Pendency of cases:

India’s Judiciary have a largest backlog in pendency of cases 

According a report published in National Judicial Date Grid states that overall pendency of cases has increased significantly at every level of the judicial hierarchy in the last decade.  From, 2006 till now, there has been an overall increase by 22% in the pendency of cases across all courts.  As of August 2019, there are over 3.5 crore cases pending across the Supreme Court, the High Courts, and the subordinate courts.  Of these, subordinate courts account for over 87.3% pendency of cases, followed by 12.5% pendency before the 24 High Courts.  The remaining 0.2% of cases are pending with the Supreme Court. i This number is continuously increasing and thus itself shows the inadequacy of the legal system. Now the challenge before the Indian Judiciary is to adjudicate upon the pending cases seems to be more difficult amidst the outbreak of COVID-19. 

2.Judicial appointments stalled:

The process of appointment of judges too has been impacted by Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown. Even before Covid-19, over 35 per cent posts in high courts were vacant — out of 1,079 sanctioned posts, 201 permanent ones and 184 additional judges’ positions were yet to be filled. But now, the appointment of over 120 high court judges is pending with the Supreme Court Collegium. In July, the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi,, had written to Union law  minister Shri Shankar Prasad, asking him to urgently expedite the appointment of 43 judges,Saying that, whose names were already approved by the SC collegium but were pending before  the government. He had also pointed out that there was already  37% shortage of judges in high courts and this number should increase with 5-6 judges retiring on an average every month.  But impact of covid 19 has led to stalled the appointment of judges and this is the one reason in pendency of cases.   

3.Quasi-judicial bodies have stopped working

The proceedings in many tribunals have come to a  halt during the lockdown despite these judicial bodies being equipped with video conferencing infrastructure. for instance, The central zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal had been hearing matters through video conferencing for nearly two years but stopped functioning since the lockdown. 

4.Hardship of the undertrials

Right to a speedy trial is an integral part of the principles of fair trial and is fundamental to the international human rights discourse. In Indian jails, most of the prisoners are undertrials, which are confined to the jails until their case comes to a definite conclusion. But due to lockdown only urgent cases are being heard so it is not possible to hear matters of undertrail prisoners. 

Measures Adopted By court for its functioning

Article 142 of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it. Exercising this power Supreme court, said that all the measures which shall be taken by the courts to reduce physical presence of stakeholders within its premises "shall be deemed to be lawful". 

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said, "consistent with the peculiarities of the judicial system in every state and the dynamically developing public health situation", every high court would be authorized to determine the modalities suitable to the temporary transition to the use of video conferencing technologies’  Directions passed by the Supreme court  on 6 April 2020, for the conduct of court proceedings across the country via video conferencing (VC), during the period of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic are a welcome step. Broadly, the 

Supreme Court has directed as

That all High Courts shall ensure their function through use of VC technologies and to this end, shall decide the modalities for use of VC technologies after considering relevant factors. And even District Courts in every state shall adopt VC technologies prescribed by the appropriate High Court.  Those litigants who do not have access to these facilities in that case the court shall make available of VC facilities for them. And ordered to follow the instructions till further notification are not given by the High court in regard to use of VC technologies. And thus, directions shall remain in force till such time as further orders are passed by the Supreme Court. 

•Online Court

Due to this pandemic, various courts have started hearing cases through video conference .Punjab and Haryana judges have gone even further ahead. The online courts record the expert evidence of doctors from PGIMER through VC The SC hearings use the VIDYO App hosted by the National Informatics Centre. Some platforms like Zoom, WhatsApp, and WebEx are being used in some high courts. the

•Virtual Court

A virtual court is a unique contribution of the eCourts Project Virtual courts have been successfully tried out in Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The virtual court system has the capacity of being upscaled and other minor offences attracting a fine incase of delayed payments of local taxes or compoundable offences can also be dealt with by virtual courts.In the present circumstances, it is essential that the judicial and quasi-judicial machinery takes steps not only to remain operational but to achieve maximum functionality  at the earliest. The virtual courts system can play a vital role in achieving this goal 


As a matter of fact, the present system of justice is totally out of place and out of time and tune with democratic procedures and norms that please only a certain section of the society with vested interests. The judiciary has a golden opportunity to envisage a justice delivery system that could function unhindered at all levels during any emergency. The online court is one of a number of related justice modernization needs. As the time changes we need to adapt changes as per the needs. And thus due to covid 19 we have to adapt changes in functioning of the Judiciary. 

References :- 

1. Suspension of summer vacation and its effect on backlog of cases in Court   
2. Top Court Issues Guidelines For Court\'s Functioning Amid COVID-19 Crisis6