In new avatar, judges take calls, facilitate services in J&K & Ladakh

NEW DELHI: Judges in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have donned a new hat, courtesy lockdown.

Nearly 15 subordinate judges of both the Union Territories are doubling up as counsellors and facilitators for the distressed.

They are facilitating a host of services — providing food and shelter to migrant labour, ensuring supply of medicines to the elderly, arranging doctors-on-call for medical advice and encouraging children to remain busy in extra-curricular activities, among other services.

They have been entertaining thousands of phone calls daily since the lockdown began and have tiedup with the state administration, NGOs and other institutions to help those in need. In the past fortnight alone, the judges have redressed grievances of at least 22,000 callers.

ET spoke to three sub-judges, who are officers of the State Legal Services Authority under the chairmanship of J&K High Court judge, Justice Rajesh Bindal.

“Ever since the lockdown was announced, it was made clear that only urgent matters will be taken up by courts. Need of the hour was to provide essential services to the disadvantaged,” one of the judges told ET on the condition of anonymity.

The judges redress grievances ranging from transportation, supplying ration/food to migrant labour, medical check-up, academics of children, their e-learning, sports and extra-curricular activities to anxiety. They even offer counselling to callers distressed on account of the Covid-19 contagion.

The J&K State Legal Services Authority collected data of contacts available with the HC and started flashing SMSes, apprising them of helpline numbers directly handled by the sub-judges.

As per available data, over 2.2 million messages have been sent by the authority till date, including advisories of the government, motivational messages and health updates. To reach a wider audience, the authorities also reached out to telecom companies.

Reliance Jio agreed to flash the messages daily to its 4 m subscribers in the state, said another judge who is aware of the developments.

With no budget allocated or funds available at hand, the officers of State Legal Services Authority reached out to the state administration, NGOs and local institutions including the “Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board” to provide essential services to the needy.

The authority deployed their para-legal volunteers in each district to ensure those living in remote areas were not left out, said people with direct knowledge of the matter.

A third Judge told ET: “In areas where televisions or newspapers were not available, the only way to reach out was through para-legal volunteers or mobile phones. Senior citizens in need of medicines are being provided the same by our volunteers”.

The authority took consent from senior doctors in the state to arrange on-call medical advice for patients in case of emergency.

“Stranded labourers were our first priority. They were provided food, shelter and counselling . For those whose kith and kin are stranded in other states, we reached out to our counterparts in the respective states and shared their coordinates so that they are taken care of,” one of the judges said.

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