STATE TIMES NEWSJammu: The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has put an end to a colonial tradition of having separate Court timings for summer and winter sessions for Courts. From June 1 onward, the High Court and lower Courts of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh will follow uniform timings all year round, Chief Justice Gita Mittal ordered in an administrative order passed on Friday evening. The High Court and lower Courts will work for the mandatory five hours from June 1. Currently, as per the timing the Courts were functioning only for four and a half hours, the order observed. Vide this order, the Chief Justice also synchronised both wings of the High Court- Jammu and Srinagar. For the Jammu wing of the High Court the Court timings have been revised to 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM while for the Srinagar wing the revised schedule is 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM. As for district Courts in Jammu, the lower Courts will function from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM and in Kashmir & Ladakh they will work from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM. A practice of change of timings of court functioning in the Jammu and Srinagar Wings’ of the High Court and the District Courts in the summer Zone of J&K from 8:00 AM to 1:30 PM from May to end of September (known as the ‘Summer Timings’) was placed before Chief Justice Gita Mittal for taking a decision. She was informed that a similar practice of following the court timing of 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM from November to end of April is followed in the Srinagar Wing and District Courts in the Winter Zone. Before passing the administrative order, the Chief Justice sought views from all Judges of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court. Views were received from nine judges only. “Only three learned judges supported the change to ‘Summer timings’, while six (five in writing, one orally) do not support the past practice of change of timing. One out of the six views suggests slight change in timing. No views stand expressed by the others. One view which has been received gives no reason other than just conveying that the practice of summer timing be continued”, reads the order. One of the reasons for the support in change of Court timings was that it was “past practice”. Elaborating, the order says that it appears that the genesis of the change of timings for the courts in Jammu & Kashmir was the practice of change of timings followed by the erstwhile Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. A Government Order passed on August 13, 2018 was before the Chief Justice whereby this practice of change of timings stands abandoned by the Government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The fact the Government itself has done away with the practice of change of timing is extremely pertinent. The very basis for change of timings by courts has been taken away, the order reads. The Chief Justice examined the practice followed in the Supreme Court of India and all the 25 High Courts as also the weather conditions all over the country. The order states that the timings of courts all over the country (as per detailed list enclosed) except in one State, remain uniform round the year. “The only exception with regard to the universal rule of uniform timings round the year is the Rajasthan High Court which follows the court timings between 10:30 AM and 4:30 PM except for three months only between April-June when the timings of court sitting is changed from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM. This divergence emanates from the geographical location of the State in the desert, which consequentially experiences exceptionally harsh summers \with temperatures going well over 50 C” , the Judge held. The order further reads “Information from relevant meteorological sources discloses that temperatures in Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab & Haryana and Delhi, amongst other States and Union Territories, are much higher than the maximum in the hottest part of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet all courts in these States/Union Territories follow the same timings all year round. Many of these courts have much larger litigation loads than the courts in Jammu and Kashmir and work efficiently round the year without change of timings”. The Chief Justice observed that as per current Court timings there is “loss of precious judicial time of half an hour every day”. The mandatory working hours for Courts is five hours. Passing the order, the Chief Justice also underscored the need for “equal access to Courts for all litigants”. Passing a detailed order ,the Chief Justice said “Looked at from all aspects, any practice which reduces court timings from the required five hours, or results in wastage of court time, cannot be permitted”. It adds “the practice in erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir to change court timings for five months from May to October and from November to end of April in Jammu and Kashmir each year is not justifiable in view of the above discussions”. The order states “Courts all over the country follow a uniform practice of maintaining the same timing round the year irrespective of the weather. The weather conditions in the Union Territory of J&K are not exceptional to justify change of timings”. Ordering uniform Court timings, the Judge said “Clearly ensuring the constitutional rights of every citizen is the primary duty of every judge and any practice which impedes or negatively impacts the same cannot be perpetuated. Litigants from remote areas cannot be denied fundamental right to justice. There is no option but to ensure that the working of both wings of High Court is synchronised”.
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