Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka on Friday assured the citizens of the State that courts, due to tech-driven initiatives, were capable of functioning whether there would be a third wave of COVID-19 or not.
Mr. Oka, who led the State’s judiciary to become first in the country to use virtual mode to hear cases on a regular basis when courts were shut due to the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020, was addressing judges and advocates during a farewell given to him on his elevation as judge of the Supreme Court.
Stating that COVID-19, in a sense, had become a blessing in disguise as the High Court was forced to make use of technology to ensure services and functioning of the courts, he saluted members of the court’s registry for working 24X7 during the pandemic. He hoped that his target of ensuring zero pendecy of cases older than five years in the State, which could not be achieved due to situation created by the pandemic, would be achieved by the end of 2022 with the cooperation of advocates.
Describing Mr. Oka as “Kayakayogi” like Basavanna, Karnataka State Bar Council chairperson Srinivasa Babu L. said the Chief Justice helped both the litigants and advocates during the pandemic by ensuring that functioning of courts was not stopped completely by evolving a standard operating procedure with the consensus of all stakeholders. His gesture of welcoming COVID-19-recovered court staff by offering a rose was a memorable moment for all, he added.
Satish Chandra Sharma, the senior-most judge of the High Court, said Mr. Oka had brought “revolutionary” changes in the court’s administrative process.
Apart from introducing several technology-driven initiatives, including hybrid system of hearing (both physical and videoconference mode), which became the mode for the Supreme Court and other High Courts, Mr. Oka issued several directions on judicial side to protect the interests of migrants and to ensure food security during March 2020 before any other High Courts took up these issues cropped up due to the pandemic.
Sixty-one-year-old Mr. Oka, who hails from Bombay High Court, had rendered judgments on protecting environment of Bengaluru city, including on preservation of trees, restoration of lakes, and management of the city’s municipal sold waste. He was also tough with the advocates by initiating contempt of court proceedings against officer-bearers of several bar associations for abstaining from court proceedings.