Gujarat HC to SC: Access through video conference to courts is not a Fundamental Right

Gujarat HC to SC: Access through video conference to courts is not a Fundamental Right

The Gujarat High Court has dismissed the Supreme Court’s petition to declare virtual hearings a basic right, claiming that expecting access to courts via video conferencing as a fundamental right is a stretch because it is neither practicable nor viable to continue electronically (All India Association of Jurists v. High Court of Uttarakhand).

The remark was made in response to a petition filed by a lawyers’ group challenging the Uttarakhand High Court’s decision to resume full physical operations on August 24, excluding virtual case hearings. The petitioners also brought their case to the Gujarat High Court, which made the same conclusion to return to physical hearings.

In its response to the Supreme Court, the Gujarat High Court stated that virtual court access “cannot be a matter of right exercised by either plaintiffs or counsel.” “The transition from physical to virtual hearing took place at a time when the country was on its knees because to the worldwide Covid crisis. However, seeking video conferencing access to courts as a fundamental right is a stretch because it is neither practicable nor viable to continue virtually “replied stated. In terms of accessibility, the High Court claims that the streaming of cases from most of its benches on YouTube has been a success. The high court submitted that “The success of live streaming may be gauged by the fact that the Gujarat High Court’s official YouTube channel has more than 80,000 followers and more than approximately 69 lakh views of various videos as part of live streaming as of October 25, 2021,”.

The High Court stated that “even as the country prepares to recover from the COVID-19 generated turmoil to normalcy,” “the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat has taken meticulous preparations for the benefit of the State via its Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs] for resumption of physical hearings.”

The decision was made in light of the Bar’s overwhelming requests to return to the physical form of hearing, reply stated. The Supreme Court is considering a petition challenging a notification issued by the Uttarakhand High Court on August 16 that stated that normal judicial business would resume on August 24, 2021, but only in the physical form, and that no requests for virtual hearings would be considered.

The All India Jurists Association, which represents over 5,000 attorneys across the country, also requested that the ability to participate in court proceedings through virtual courts be declared a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) and (g) of the Constitution. Former top officer Julio Ribeiro and former Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi are among the intervenors in the case before the Supreme Court.