Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 23
COVID-19 has hit the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The secretary of a High Court judge has tested positive for COVID-19, sending waves of apprehensions among the technical and other staff involved in the process of hearing cases through videoconferencing.
Describing the development as “alarming”, a senior officer said the judge and others may now have to be tested for the virus, adding that a substantial number of High Court officers and officials, involved in the day-to-day functioning of the virtual courts, came in contact with the secretary during the past few days.
The development has once again indicated the impracticality of permitting physical functioning at the level of the High Court and the lower courts.
Available information suggests around 70 officers and staff members have been quarantined after July 13 till date 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 were a district and sessions judge and three additional district and sessions judges.
Confirming the information, High Court’s Registrar Vigilance-cum-PRO Vikram Aggarwal said Yogesh, secretary in the Court of Justice Alka Sarin, was tested positive for COVID-19.
The health authorities were tracing all contacts. Based upon the findings, the judge, the officials posted in the court and officers who visited the court during the past few days would be tested or quarantined.
The High Court and the district judiciary went into restricted functioning mode in March-end following the COVID-19 outbreak.
In an attempt to prevent the period from turning into denial of justice phase, the High Court cancelled its summer vacations for itself and the subordinate courts in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
The High Court is currently functioning at almost two-third its strength through videoconferencing.
As of now, the High Court and the subordinate courts are primarily conducting virtual hearings.
But at times circumstances warrant the production of the accused before the courts or interaction between the judicial officers and lawyers, increasing their exposure to risk.
Another officer further adds the court administration is in regular touch with medical and other experts. They are of the opinion that the opening of “physical” courts should not be allowed at the present stage following the upward swing in the number of COVID-19 cases after the relaxation in the lockdown.
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