J&K High Court At Srinagar Completely Non-functional Due To Violence4 October 2010
Srinagar: The functioning of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court at Srinagar has been affected badly by the current phase of unrest. Curfew, however, was one of the factors which have affected the courts in Srinagar, the other factor is the complete strike by the Srinagar Bar Association. If seen in this context, Bhim Singh’s petition before Supreme Court represents only one half of the truth, the another half is missing. The Supreme Court on October 1 asked Registrar General of Jammu and Kashmir High Court to give a report on whether imposition of curfew in the Kashmir Valley has affected the functioning of the High Court at Srinagar. The direction came after Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh filed a petition in the Suprem Court saying said it has become difficult for the litigants to reach the High Court for redressal of their grievances due to curfew. Interestingly Bhim Singh’s petition was listed before a Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia and also comprising of Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar. Singh said curfew restrictions were also affecting the ambulance services in the Valley and people are finding it hard to reach hospitals and dispensaries. When a Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said that such issues can be raised before the High Court for redressal, Singh said it is not possible to go there due to curfew. He said if the apex court will consider the plea raised in the petition, it will help in providing solace and healing touch to the people of Valley troubled by unrest. However, the Bench, said that the High Court was working and the grievances of the petitioner could be well addressed there. 'We are of the view that submissions made by the writ petitioners can be dealt effectively by the High Court. However, the petitioner states that the High Court is not approachable. We want a report from the Registry whether the High Court is functioning or not,' the Bench said. The Panthers party had filed a petition seeking a direction to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to keep schools, colleges and hospitals out of the purview of the curfew in the Valley. It has sought protection to students and daily wage labourers going to schools and for work respectively besides providing all necessary help to patients visiting hospitals. Further, the petitioner has sought that chemist shops, clinics, the High Court and subordinate courts as well as graveyards are kept out of the curfew domain. However, the fact of the matter is that the functioning of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court at Srinagar has been affected my multiple factors prominent among them the strike of the Srinagar Bar Association. When the current phase of unrest started in the month of June, the High Court was off for vacations till 30th of that month. When the court resumed after vacations, the Srinagar Bar Association gave a call for indefinite strike and there has been not a single day’s break in the strike. For fear or favour, no lawyer appears before the court. Although the general strike calls observe breaks at usual intervals when markets open and transport plies on roads, the court has seen no respite. This has led to the suffering of the litigant public. Surprisingly, the Advocate Generals team comprising Additional Advocate General, Deputy Advocate General and Government Advocates also chose to stay away for obvious reasons. When contacted, Advocate General Ishaq Qadri said that the court was functional and Bhim Singh did not approached the High Court for redressal of his grievances, whatsoever. To a question, Qadri said that there were multiple factors that affect the functioning of the court. “ yes, in curfew and strikes litigants as well as councils find it difficult to reach the court but let me tell you the court remains open and lawyers appear before the Court” said Qadri. When asked that litigants allege that the government advocates chose to stay away from the courts for fear of or favour to the bar leaders, Advocate General said there was absolutely nothing of that sorts. “ The court adjourns the case where councils don’t appear and decides those were councils appear. Today only, a number of cases came for hearing a directions were issued, it is only possible when the lawyers appear before the court” Qadri said. Senior Advocate Riyaz Khawar has a different story to tell. Khawar said, “ fresh cases are not being filed, pending cases are being adjourned because no lawyer appears before the court”. Riyaz says that the functioning of the court has been affected both by the curfew and the strikes. “ During curfew periods lawyers and litigants don’t reach the courts and during strikes lawyers stay away, both ways the functioning gets affected” said Khawar. On Advocate General’s quote, Khawar said that the High Court Staff is able to reach the court so courts remain open but non-functional. On Mian Qayoom’s case, Kgawar said that there are liberty matters and hobos- corpus petitions were layers appear before the court but not in service matters and other litigations.