NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court, which on Thursday completed 71 years of its functioning, said it faced one of the major and unprecedented challenges in 2020 due to the wide spread of highly contagious coronavirus while ensuring that the access to justice remained unabated and unhindered.
The top court, which had held its inaugural sitting on January 28, 1950, came out with an official statement on the occasion and said it has been protecting rights and liberties of citizens while upholding the rule of law and the constitutional values.
In all these years the Apex Court under the mandate given to it by the Constitution of India has relentlessly marched towards ensuring the protection of rights and liberties of the citizens, upholding rule of law and the Constitutional Values.
"The Supreme Court was faced with various challenges in its journey, but it remained committed to its duties and ensured that the access to justice remains unhindered," the statement said.
It referred to nationwide lockdown announced from March 23, 2020 to curb the spread the COVID-19 and said despite difficulties, "the Apex Court ensured access to Justice remains unabated. During these unprecedented challenges, the Court remained functional throughout, though number of benches were reduced. Beyond the usual minimum required 190 days court sittings in a calendar year, the court was functional for 231 days, including 13 vacation sittings in the year 2020", it said.
It said that the Registry also remained functional for 271 days as against an average of 268 days in the previous three years.
"The Registry's working strength was affected considerably with 408 officials/staff infected with Covid-19 and an unfortunate loss of life of one official."
However almost 99 per cent of the officials/staff so reported positive for the infection were asymptomatic or with mild symptoms.
"This early detection and cure was possible due to rigorous implementation of Covid-19 protocols and regular testing of officials/ staff at periodic intervals and strict contact tracing mechanism and sanitisation procedure," it said.
The statement added that despite technological constraints and other challenges of reduced workforce, Covid-19 protocols, 43,713 hearings were held by 1998 benches through Video Conferencing mode till December 31, 2020.