Along with the initial enthusiasm for the government measures for lock-down, differences and disputes are already emerging. Huge crowds gathered at Anand Vihar amidst misinformation for ferrying migrant workers to their native places. One of the members of Atmabodh caught this on his camera and posted on his facebook post today.
The exodus has been followed today by suspension of two officials. Video clips of cops beating up labourers going out to work, without asking questions or attempting to see permissions have been doing the rounds. Grievances about the promised food packets not reaching the needy are also mushrooming. Complaints of procurement of faulty diagnostic kits and thermometers are also doing the rounds in medical professional circles as well as the international media. Can we afford to keep these grievances of people in deep freezer? May be yes, but for how long? Policy decisions may have to be tested on the touchstone of constitutional principles of rationality and proportionality. Fortunately, the positive news is outnumbering the negative. For now, we may turn a blind eye to these.
A few of my clients have been calling. One was relieved when I informed him that limitation has been extended, so he can sleep stress-free during the lock-down. Another, engaged in supplying food to an essential services entity is threatened with business continuity due to a commercial restructuring process caught in the war time. Yet another is worried about the conclusion of a divorce, so that she can look towards a new feature, while age is still on her side. Another person was complaining about prices being hiked by local wholesalers. It would be interesting to know about the statistics of call being received by the helplines of the various legal services authorities. The point is that with a good part of the economy still running and being bound to run, justice cannot be pushed to the backstage. So, can we be content with the telephonic mentioning of urgent matters and scanned petitions? Of course, we have been caught unawares and cannot but welcome these efforts and let them pass as adequate.
I would like to mention a Whats App message from a friend seeking to unravel what lawyers are doing in the lock-down. I will wait for her article when she publishes it and see what it unravels. My anecdotal evidence is as follows. Two lawyers contacted me for medicines that they needed, one for himself and another for his father. Another called me to ask about whether we were stocked up on provisions. Many have been filling up the pages of the social media platform. Others have been making donations to the PM and the CM relief funds and publishing them, ostensibly to encourage others to follow suit. Yet others have been busy involving their families and juniors in cooking food for the poor and supplying them to the local police. A couple of lawyers discussed which extra-legal reading might be good. A blessed few are reading for their Supreme Court Advocate on Record (AOR) exams on the other side of the lock-down. Few bar leaders are busy fining monetary relief to those of the fraternity living on rented accommodations and participating in the resulting slug-fest. Not many seem to be visibly worried about the plight of the litigants, for whom they exist as a professional. Again, I would look away.
My glance now falls on the role of the legal community in national disasters as envisaged in the statutes. Will discuss it in my next dispatch.