A letter from Advocate D.C Kabir dated 27th March 2020 was received by the High Court regarding the challenges faced by the people in Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to the Nationwide Lockdown. The letter has been treated as a Suo Moto Petition WP No. 5324(W) of 2020. The petition was presided by the Hon’ble Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Hon’ble Justice Dipankar Datta on 28th March 2020.
After perusing the letter petition, the Court submitted that
“access to justice is multifaceted assistance to people. It is not confined to mere access of Courts.”
Furthermore, the Court stated that
“Provisions to support cohesive and comprehensive deliverance of matters connected with life is among the guarantees, including fundamental rights, in the Constitution. Therefore, we are of the view that the contents of the letter petition require to be addressed and remedial measures, as may be found necessary, ought to be pushed through as a first step in this regard.”
The Court’s Response to the Petition
The Court directed the Union of India and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands to respond immediately by sending reports over email to the Registrar General of this Court by 30th March 2020. The reports will then be placed before the Court for their consideration.
It has to be noted that given the extraordinary circumstances, the proceedings of this case will continue by utilizing WhatsApp, e-conferencing, e-mails, etc. as modes of communication and judicial management for the time being.
Orders have been issued for smooth distribution of essential commodities and medicines to the Island. Therefore, the Court has to find out the reality on the ground. Therefore, the Court has constituted a Monitoring Committee headed by the District Judge, with the Judicial Secretary, the Superintendent of Police, South Andamans and the President of the Bar Association, Port Blair.
The Monitoring Committee was directed to,
“ensure access to justice for all but also to act on behalf of the Court and report on the ground realities.”
“make an overall assessment of all relevant factors including the supply of essential commodities and essential articles, medicines, fuel and availability of other support mechanisms for the people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.”
The Court also directed the District Judge of Andaman and Nicobar Islands who is also the Registrar-in-charge of the Port Blair Circuit Bench of the High Court at Calcutta to notify that the public can file petitions in soft copies under extremely urgent circumstances. The petitions will be forwarded to the Registrar in Kolkata to be placed before the Chief Justice.
The Judicial Secretary who is also the Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), Andaman and Nicobar Islands to similarly notify that any such petitions which require immediate judicial intervention will be forwarded to the Chief Justice for consideration.
The case will be considered on the 31st of March 2020 through video-conferencing.
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