Millennium Post

When the heavens fall

Perhaps for the first time in the judicial history of independent India, has come a complete halt. With more than 600 positive cases of COVID-19 and a nationwide lockdown in place for twenty-one days, announced this Tuesday, even the Supreme Court of India, which had until last week continued to hear urgent matters and had introduced a dedicated platform to enable lawyers to argue via video conferencing, announced that the urgent matters listed in the cause list for March 24 and 25 will not be taken up and stand adjourned. It remains unclear whether, if the situation so demands, would the Supreme Court of India, and other courts, be accessible, digitally or otherwise. The complete shut down of the justice system, despite limitation period being put to a halt and interim orders extended, comes with its own costs of many proportions. One of them being the aftermath that the courts would have to face after the threat of virus subsides. Another is the fact that while some senior lawyers would not have to worry about their bills, most junior lawyers earn far less and are likely to remain unpaid during the whole period of closure. In addition to this, a complete absence of criminal justice administration may result in spikes in crime rates. On the other hand, the United Kingdom, also under lockdown due to COVID-19, continues to make justice accessible, even though in a limited manner. Notably, while the present measures are much required to prevent the transmission of the epidemic, given the availability of technology and its own willingness, the Supreme Court of India, and other courts in the country, could continue to function, in whatsoever limited capacity, to uphold the age-old Latin phrase – "Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum" (Let justice be done though the heavens fall.)

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