Jammu and Kashmir HC Terminates the Age-Old Practice of Changing Court Timings for Summer and Winter Sessions

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On 22 May 2020, Ms Gita Mittal, the Chief Justice of the J&K High Court, via video-conferencing, issued an order for maintaining uniform Court timings throughout the year.

Brief Facts

A practice of change of Court timings in Jammu and Kashmir exists for 92 years. The’Summer Timings’ are from 8 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. from May to September end.

The Courts of Jammu and Srinagar Wings falling under Summer Zone.

The Srinagar Wing and the District Courts in the Winter Zone follow ‘Winter Timings’. They are from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. from November to April end.

The Chief Justice Ms Gita Mittal welcomed views of all learned judges of the High Court. She received views from nine judges. Out of nine, three judges supported the old practice, and six judges did not support the same.

Weather conditions

Some people support the change of Court timings for winter and summer sessions because it is the past practice. The erstwhile Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir had done away with this practice on 13-08-2018. Thus, the very basis for practicing the change of timings has been taken away.

Another reason suggested for continuing with the past practice is the weather conditions in the Jammu region during the summer. However, this reason doesn’t hold good as the summer timings go way beyond what is considered as summer in any part of India.

In the same way, winter timings are followed beyond the winter season. The Court timings all over the country except in one State remain uniform round the year. Rajasthan High Court does not follow universal timings for three months from April to June.

The reason being, the experience of temperatures are over 50°C as the State is located in the desert region. It is not the case in any part of Jammu and Kashmir. Thus, the weather conditions in J&K do not justify the past practice.

The summer timings in the summer zone courts of J&K do not follow the mandatory five working hours shift for six months every year. In the same way, during the winter timings, there is a loss of the judicial time of half an hour every day. Hence, the failure of court working time in the past practice justifies the maintenance of uniform timings.

Court’s Observations

Litigants travel from remote corners of the districts to file complaints in the District Courts. A lawyer or a litigant from distant places can’t reach the Court before the 8 A.M. as the journey is long.

Therefore, to ensure equal access to courts to all litigants, uniform court timing is necessary. Additionally, the insufficient and inefficient public transport makes it difficult for lawyers, court staff, and the litigants to reach the Court on time.

The working hours of the two Wings of the High Court are different from May to October. Thus, it is impossible to conduct administrative meetings of the High Court judges during this time.

Several judges spend their mornings reading the files of those cases reserved for judgments. Many even use the morning time for dictating judgments. It is not possible when there is a change in the summer schedule.

In the morning time, many lawyers read briefs, hold conferences with clients and junior colleagues. This routine is affected by the change in the timings for summer and winter sessions. Hence, for efficient dispensation of justice, uniform court timing becomes necessitated.

The poor judicial infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir makes it necessary to implement uniform timings. The COVID-19 lockdown has disrupted the functioning of the courts more than ever before. Even after the lockdown, movement restrictions and social distancing norms will make it difficult for the courts to function normally. Hence, uniform maintenance of Court timings must be supported.

Court’s Order

The Court ordered the following uniform timings with effect from 1 June 2020. The office of Jammu Wing will function from 9:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. for the first session and from 2 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. for the second session. The High Court in Jammu Wing will work from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. for the first session and from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. for the second session. All the District and Subordinate Courts of Jammu division will have the same timings as the High Court in Jammu Wing.

The office of Srinagar Wing will function from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. for the first session and from 2 P.M. to 5 P.M. for the second session. The High Court in Srinagar Wing will work from 10:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. for the first session and from 2 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. for the second session. All the District and Subordinate Courts of Kashmir and Ladakh division will have the same timings as the High Court in Srinagar Wing.

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