The Supreme Court, like the High Courts, have taken on a special role during the pandemic. Various suo moto cases, public interest litigations and other writ petitions have been taken up to deal with the fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic. These have played a role in disseminating information and coordinating best practices, among other things.
At the Supreme Court Observer, we are tracking some of the most important Covid cases. We have also tracked the Court’s administrative response to the pandemic. Below are our dynamic pages which are updated with the latest developments as they happen.
In this post, we look at the administrative changes at the Court due to the pandemic. From shutting down operations to virtual and hybrid hearings, we have covered all the latest changes in procedure and technology.
In April 2020, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognisance of the migrant labourer crisis. Combining multiple petitions, the Court heard parties and States on a range of issues. They have issued directions on providing transport, shelter, food and water. The matter was taken up once more during the second wave.
During the surge of cases at the start of the second wave, the Court took suo moto notice of a need for developing a national policy. They looked primarily at the supply of oxygen and essential drugs, and the administration and pricing of vaccines. We are tracking this case, in which the Court is exercising its ‘dialogic role’ with Central and State governments.
Screening and Treatment
The Court heard petitions seeking affordability in Covid testing and treatment. While they initially had ordered free testing, they modified this. They are looking into ensuring even private labs and hospitals provide affordable rates of testing and treatment. And to make it free where possible.
Multiple petitions were filed by parents seeking to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class 10 and 12 Board Exams. The Court has also heard SLPs challenging High Court orders which allowed State Board exams to be conducted. However, the Court has been reluctant to interfere. Fresh petitions have been filed in 2021 along similar lines.
The Court took up suo moto cognisance of the effect of the contagion in prisons, where physical distancing was especially hard. The Court has ordered safety measures such as quarantine and virtual appearance before courts. It also directed the setting up of a High-Powered Committee in each State which looked at releasing prisoners on interim bail.
Children in Protection Homes
The Court took suo moto notice of the impact of Covid on children in protection homes. These include children in contact with the law and those in need of care and protection. They have heard on and issued orders to address children’s health and education, and on abandoned children.