In order to ensure that virtual courts are friendly to physically challenged lawyers and litigants, Justice DY Chandrachud, chairman of the Supreme Court’s e-Committee, has proffered suggestions to High Courts. With no permanent solution in sight to the pandemic, physical hearings in courts might be a long time coming. This has warranted efforts to ensure that virtual courts are friendly to physically challenged lawyers and litigants. Taking the matter into consideration, Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud, in a letter to the chief justices of all High Courts, has put forth suggestions stressing the urgent need to have accessible infrastructure including digital ecosystems to enable physically challenged lawyers and litigants to participate in the legal profession on an equal footing.
Justice Chandrachud, who also heads the Supreme Court’s e-Committee, stressed the importance of having accessible infrastructure and said: “The creation of accessible infrastructure, including digital infrastructure, and an appropriate support system in the judiciary for lawyers and litigants with disabilities is imperative in order to create a level playing field. This obligation is a natural corollary of the right to equality guaranteed to lawyers and litigants with disabilities under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the right to practise a profession of one’s choice under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.”
The judge asked High Courts and district courts to reconfigure existing filing practices, taking into account the needs of physically disabled lawyers. In this respect, it has been suggested that the onus to make filings accessible cannot be placed on disabled lawyers since “this would be much like serving a file to an able bodied lawyer in a foreign language and placing the onus on them to translate it into English”.
Instead, the letter suggested that the system be institutionalised to embed accessibility for all time to come. “Second, instead of requiring a disabled lawyer to seek case-by-case intervention, or having a separate system just for them, we have to ensure that existing filing practices are reconfigured to take account of their needs,” the letter read.