Consider Judicial officers as frontline workers, PIL in Delhi High Court

A Plea has been filed in Delhi High Court to give directions to Union government and Delhi Government to treat the Judicial Officers as the frontline worker.

The plea reads that the Judicial Officers have selflessly devoted themselves to the speedy and effective justice delivery mechanism even during the present grave situation. And to maintain law and order and to ensure speedy and effective delivery of justice, the Ld. judicial officers are immensely exposed should be protected.

The PIL has been filed with the following prayer:- 

• To direct the GNCT of Delhi to immediately declare Ld. Judicial Officers ( DJS/DHJS) as frontline workers and provide them by setting  up a mechanism for the medical treatment of Judicial Officers in Delhi  infected with the coronavirus and or serious related ailments;

• To direct the Government to earmark Private and Government hospitals nears respective the Court residence complex in Delhi for the treatment of the Judicial Officers (DJS/DHJS).

• To convert the dispensaries in the residential colonies of Judicial Officers and dispensaries near the Court Complexes to Covid Centers;

• To treat the judicial officers with severe symptoms and treatment as frontline worker ;

• Pass any other order(s) which this court may deem fit and proper in the interest of justice and the general public of the NCT of Delhi.

The plea stated that “105 officers and their families are residing in the Saket Court residential complex presently and likewise in all other District Courts judicial officers with families are residing. Since 24th March till 20th April, number of  Judges and their family members contracted the deadly virus and suffered from Covid. Almost in every District Court Judicial Officers are Covid positive. Six judicial Officers from the Saket complex required urgent hospital admission. Despite efforts four of them could not secure even a bed at the nearest Covid hospitals. And Unfortunately one DHJS officer, Sh. Kovai Venugopal , succumbed to the disease because of late hospital admission. His widow and a 9-year-old daughter survive him. The Ld. Add session Judge District Satna (MP) Sh. Jagdish Aggarwal succumbed to death due to Covid.” 

Further submission in the plea is that, “the Judicial officers have been meted out with discrimination by not being included in the list of frontline workers. That the fact that when the entire country was under lockdown, continuous duties for maintenance of law and order like magistrates performing Jail duties were being performed by the Judicial officers has been totally ignored by the Government. That the fact remains that the Judicial Officers have been most exposed to the deadly coronavirus and yet they have been discriminated against by not being included in the list of frontline workers.”

The plea also emphasized that, “That unlike doctors, who have the discretion to deal with one patient at a time, Judicial officers had to conduct judicial proceedings in presence of multiple people including advocates, witnesses, litigants, officials etc. that in the presence of such a huge crowd the maintenance of social distancing norms is nothing more than a far-fetched dream.”

The plea also quated the observation of Hon’ble Supreme Court in All India Judges Association vs. Union of India &Ors. AIR 1993 SC 2493 whereby the apex court is of the view that,  “This distinction between the Judges and the members of the other services has to be constantly kept in mind for yet another important reason. Judicial independence cannot be secured by making mere solemn proclamations about it. It has to be secured both in substance and in practice. It is trite to say that those who are in want cannot be free. Self-reliance is the foundation of independence. The society has a stake in ensuring the independence of the judiciary, and no price is too heavy to secure it. To keep the judges in want of the essential accouterments and thus to impede them in the proper discharge of their duties, is to impair and whittle away justice itself.”
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