The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has requested the Centre to permit judges, judicial staff and members of the legal fraternity to take the Covid-19 along with healthcare and frontline workers during the ongoing first phase of the vaccination drive being held across India.
The SCBA has written to lay minster Ravi Shankar Prasad regarding the issue.
Meanwhile, India has vaccinated a total of 3,81,305 healthcare workers so far and many states are already lagging behind in their vaccination target due to glitches in the Co-WIN app.
SCBA Vice President Kailash Vasudev, in a letter, urged Prasad to ensure that the vaccination programme is extended to the judicial fraternity at the "earliest".
"Presently, the vaccination programme is confined to defined frontline workers and will extend to others in a phased manner. The judicial system - a sacrosanct limb in the constitutional scheme, is second to none in rendering service to the people. Judges, members of the staff and lawyers who work in the judicial system are frontline workers," the letter stated.
It added that the courts have not functioned to their full capacity due to the restrictions imposed in the pandemic.
"Restricted audience, absence of examination of witnesses, limited hearing of cases (bar classified urgent causes), malfunctioning of software programmes operating the video system and delays in hearing are leading to a crisis not only for the litigants and lawyers but also to many who draw their sustenance from the courts - small canteen workers, couriers, photostat shops, stationers et al," it said.
The letter added that many are being driven to penury and are deprived of their rights, especially those in custody and others seeking relief in long pending cases.
"We request that the present vaccination programme be extended to all who work in the judicial system at the immediate earliest to usher in normalcy in the working of the judicial system.
"This will restore the faith of the people in the judiciary. Opening court halls and hearings in physical form are of seminal importance," the letter said.
It further requested "to include judges, judicial staff and members of the legal fraternity in the category of frontline workers so that appropriate remedial measures are taken to prioritise and extend this vaccination programme to this class of our citizenry," it said.
It further said it would be in the larger interests not only of the litigating public but also in the history of the administration. It will assuage a system which has been fractured by the pandemic, the letter said.
(With PTI inputs)
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine