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Covid-19 Pandemic And Legal Education And Profession

Covid 19 or coronavirus is one of the deadliest diseases this world has ever seen. People not only suffered physically but mentally and economically as well. All the sectors of the world came to a halt and the legal field was no exception to it. This article expresses how the education field and our judicial system are affected due to constant lockdowns and curfews. The online platform was the only method to keep the world running while minimizing the risk of disease. But the online method was not accepted so freely by the people.

They found it hard to have a transition from offline mode to online mode. This article talks about the challenges faced by the students, teachers, lawyers, advocates, common people, and judges during the time of the pandemic and their responses to it. This article also explores the responsibilities and duties performed by the Bar Council of India and by the judiciary during the tough times of pandemics.

The coronavirus has a very adverse situation on the whole world and the education sector is one of the most affected sectors. Our educational and judicial system are the areas that land in the field of being physical, in these areas we were dealing with the situation in virtual mode amid the pandemic. These areas have faced a lot of problems in this pandemic. In the educational field, not only students but also the educational administration was facing problems.

This pandemic has brought not only health issues but also financial problems. The judiciary system was completely working in virtual mode, so they were facing problems in hearing trials. The appearance of victims as well as of the accused is one of the critical issues, other than this presenting evidence was also a problem that was faced by advocates amid covid-19.

Issues & Challenges in the dispensation of legal education - Issues & challenges that students have to face, and their responses:
COVID-19 has rapidly affected the whole world and made them face many challenges, educational institutions are one among them, which are highly impactable for the present as well as for the future. It is being said that due to this outbreak we have shifted 3 years back from the current.

For the continuance of education, most institutions have started online classes for the completion of courses. Since it was the first time for the students from class nursery to higher education to have online classes, screening is one of the major problems that is being faced by many students, it has been found that due to screening many students were facing anxiety, issues related to mental health and vision.

Also, they were not getting any practical knowledge because of a lack of interaction. They have to put themselves in a situation where they have to adapt to the environment of the classroom at home. So, that was a complete change of environment because earlier they used to be within the walls of classrooms. Many children are not accustomed to the system to join their online classes.

Due to this outbreak, students had faced not only educational problems but also financial problems too, because many of the children's parents were hospitalized and sadly many of them had lost their lives amid the pandemic.
  • Issues & challenges that the administration has to face, and their response
    COVID-19 has not only affected the children's education but also affected educational administration. They have faced many challenges because this outbreak is also completely new for them.

    The most common problem that was being faced by the administration was a technical issue because it happened that many times the connection is lost, it is also seen that many students have their internet quota for a day, so due to these issues the administrative have to face problems, many students do not have a computer, so this is also a big challenge before the administration.

    In public schools, teachers are not completely aware of the conduct of online classes, they lack reading material or the basic knowledge of using the technology. Sometimes happens that students have done mischievous acts which makes teachers uncomfortable. In most countries, the educational institution was closed to control the outbreak.

    Educational administration, to provide the continuation of students' education programs, have created individual schedules for the student who needs special education, they are staying in touch with teachers so that they can have analysis on what is going on.

    A deputy head of schools working in a private school, states "Since we have students with special needs each has an individual education plan. A weekly program was prepared for our students with mild and moderate disabilities who can study with their parents."
  • Issues & challenges that teachers have to face, and their response
    In the education sector, many departments are working amid pandemics. But the most difficult task is for the teachers who are supposed to teach online where they have only a screen to teach.

    They execute the main curriculum for classes. They face many issues while teaching students during a covid-19 pandemic. The outbreak of coronavirus has disrupted the education sector globally. Classes have been suspended to enforce the social distancing and educational institutions from schools to universities have shifted to the online method of teaching and rating or evaluation.

    The online survey showed that teachers face issues in delivering their lectures through the digital medium. Poor connectivity, data expenses, or not having proper devices to deliver education digitally are also a matter of concern for the teacher. Other than the technological issues various barriers faced during online classes were figuring out online etiquette, parents hovering, and maintaining decorum of the class were also major concerns.

    Teachers have put a great effort into creating an appropriate environment for handling the classes using suitable methods for content delivery and finding different ways of estimation which have benefited the student. And these all things can only be done when teachers make themselves durable.
  • Clinical legal education during times of COVID pandemic
    Education has been hard hit by the outbreak of coronavirus. The legal sector is no exception. Legal education is an education where a person should have to be pragmatic. "Practical training outperforms theories". This quote by Roscoe Pound- an eminent jurist strikes the clinical nature of education. The knowledge of the law also plays a very important role but the main thing is about the implementation of that law. But due to the outbreak of covid-19 all the law colleges, the legal offices, and even courts are closed.

    So, they are supposed to conduct all the administrative work through an online mode that is not physical. In such kind of teaching-learning pedagogy clinical learning. Law students have lost their grip on clinical papers. While in law colleges many activities are conducted to provide practical knowledge of law like moot courts, mock trials, trial advocacy, ADR activities, and internships. Internships have emerged as an easy way to understand the practical guide approach of law through Courts, Bars, law firms, and commissions. But due to coronavirus, all these things were put on hold. The essence of clinical education was not at all being fulfilled in the pandemic.

    The gap that has been created between legal education and practical training needs to be reduced. The need for technology-induced revolutionary changes as well as innovative teaching techniques to cover a wide range of topics was posed by the pandemic. There is a need to teach not only the domain knowledge but also the skills associated with the profession and most importantly the attitude required to succeed in the profession. An E-learning platform needs to be established by legal institutions to bridge the existing gap between theory and practice as an all-time substitute for physical learning.
  • The Issues & challenges that parents have to face, and their responses
    The outbreak of Coronavirus has shaken up all families over the world. As parents, they have also a duty to take care of their children and families. So, they always have fear regarding the safety of their families, amid covid, it is a big responsibility on their shoulders. On normal days they go to their offices and can hardly spend time with their families. But now the coin is completely flipped on its side, they have to spend the time with their family members but only between the walls of their houses.

    It is also found that if a child is suffering from any other disease apart from covid-19. They are in dilemma about admitting their children to the hospital because the chances of getting affected by covid-19 increases in hospitals, although the hospital administration was taking proper precautions. Parents are concerned about their children's education because everything was going online so they were thinking that how the will institution manages the classes and also how can they support their children at home while their classes will be going on.

    Many parents are facing financial issues because many of them used to work daily, as street vendors, or employees of small businesses. We have seen during lockdown how many parents got stuck in many cities or even in countries so it was very difficult to manage their families. Some of them has come to their home on foot. In most countries due to lockdown, their income has been stopped. These are the reasons why they cannot afford the fees, books or even internet access.
    Covid Pandemic and Legal Education and Profession:

    Novel coronavirus known as the Covid-19 crisis engulfed the whole world in an unprecedented crisis which resulted in unimaginable damage and suffering to the people. Many countries were forced to enforce lockdowns to control and contain the spread of this deadly virus.

    Many states in India were badly affected by this virus. There was inadequacy in the medical sector and the economy was in shambles. The legal sector of the country was on standstill. Many young as well as other lawyers faced a lot of challenges during that period. The advocates and judges had a transition from seeing their colleagues, friends, and clients in offices and courtrooms to a virtual platform where they gazed into one other's dining room. Law schools and Bar exams were in chaos.

    People had to learn new technologies and aptitudes to cope with the additional stress of earning during these tough times. Let's discuss some of the problems faced by the advocates, Judges, and aggrieved parties during the time of the pandemic.
  • Problems faced by the advocates during the time of the Pandemic Online Mode and New Technologies
    The pandemic introduced a new mode of functioning of the judiciary i.e., a virtual model of hearing cases. It is a platform that helps the working of the judiciary through the means of video conferencing, e-filing, telephonic conversations, online payment methods, etc. A two-judge bench in Krishna Veni Nagam v. Harish Nagam held that:
    'The court for the first time noted that there are too many transfer petitions being filed in the Supreme Court. To lessen the burden on litigants the court directed that wherever the facility of video conferencing is available, the model should be optimally utilized'.

    The virtual hearing platform proved to be an effective mode of working during the tough times of covid. Not only the legal profession but nearly all the professions opted for this method. Virtual Platform proved to be an effective method yet still it had its cons. Virtual hearing or online methods were not as effective as an offline mode is.

    Many seniors as well as new lawyers faced a considerable number of problems while dealing with the new technologies. Not being aware of the technologies, people or law office staff were forced to carry out their work at the home. It increased the additional work of protecting sensitive information regarding their clients and cases. While some of the law workers transitioned smoothly, others were facing a serious problem of backlogging and delaying.

    The young advocates or lawyers faced a considerable number of problems regarding the virtual platform hearing. Being new to this field and having less experience in the work, the new advocates and lawyers needed the guidance of their superiors. They needed more assistance regarding the formal and informal learning of the procedures and etiquettes, but due to the lockdown, they were confined in the intricacies of the virtual world without any sustenance.

    Lesser Pay and unemployment
    Due to lockdowns and a decline in the economy, many businesses and professions suffered economically. The number of people working in the law sector was removed and most of the government sector employees' salaries were cut down. The recruitment programs of many private and governmental companies were on halt. According to a report some of the senior lawyers of Kerala were found to be standing in the governmental ration lines due to lack of funding.

    The competition for recruitment increased as more and more people were getting unemployed. Many of the recent graduates were facing one of the biggest challenges that are earning during these tough times. They had the mindset or a common perception that if you work in one of the major companies, your employment is secured. However, due to the economic crisis, this common perception was fading away. Many law companies in India as well as abroad were lowering their cost in an attempt to survive the pandemic.
  • Problems faced by the Parties during the time of the pandemic Lack of technologies
    The aggrieved parties or the litigants faced a huge problem of lack of technology. Many of the litigants who belonged to the vulnerable section of society were bound to accept their fate until this pandemic got over.

    They didn't have the means to file a case online and due to this all the cases, which were unrecorded at the time of the pandemic piled up to be a huge work for the judiciary. Many cases were gone unrecorded during the time of the pandemic as the people were frightened and discouraged. This not only reduced the credibility of the judiciary in the eyes of the people but also hampered the mental peace of the people.

    Not only the vulnerable sections but others also suffered due to the lack of knowledge of technologies. They were finding it hard to transition from the offline mode of work to the online mode.
Tendency of cases
The Indian Judiciary is seriously burdened with the problem of backlogging and arrears of cases. Nearly, four crore cases are still pending in the Indian Judiciary. This not only questions the credibility of the judiciary but also degrades the very meaning of justice.

The number of cases that were pending before the pandemic as of February 1, 2020, was three-point six five crores. From February 1, 2020, till September 31, 2020, the Supreme Court of India saw a rise of 3.6 percent, the High court saw a rise of 12.4 percent, and the subordinate courts saw a rise of 6.6 percent in pending cases. The pendency of cases is one of the biggest hindrances that the judicial justice system has to face while ensuring the delivery of justice.

Due to increasing arrears of cases the parties suffered both economically as well as mentally.

Problems faced by the judicial officers during the pandemic
Technological issues
One of the most common problems that were nearly faced by everyone during the time of the pandemic was the problem of coping with technological instruments. The judges were finding it hard to transition from an offline mode into an online mode. Not having any experience related to the new technologies and due to poor digital infrastructure, the Judiciary of India was affected badly.

Cut in salaries
The judges didn't face the problems of unemployment but they did face the problem of a fall in salary. The salaries of every governmental employee were cut by some percent to fight the pandemic and to create a buffer of money for supporting the medical sector and other sectors.

Overburden of work
Due to the complete lockdown and due to the problems faced in the technological aspects, the work of the judiciary was delayed. The number of pending cases before the Indian Judiciary was raised to nearly 19 percent [3]. Due to this, the number of each case was also increased among the judges of the respective courts. The other aspect of delaying the work was that the recruits and the new judges or the transferred judges had less experience regarding their work, due to this the pendency of work increased.

Bar council of India and its challenges during the pandemic
The bar council of India was created on April 27, 1974, as a public charitable trust. The bar council works towards maintaining professional standards in the legal profession and implementing improvements in legal education.

Response of the Bar Council Towards the challenges of pandemic
Regulation of the universities
One of the works of the bar council is to regulate the universities of India. During the pandemic, the bar council of India ensured that legal education should not get affected. It consulted the universities on how to impart more education while not exposing the students or the faculty members to any risk. It proposed many provisions like online classes in each university, less emphasis on attendance, cancellation of examinations, etc. to help the students during the tough times of pandemic.

Appointment of Lawyers and protection of their safeguard
The recruits or upcoming lawyers faced problems with employment and placement during the tough times of covid. The bar ensured that the legal justice system of India should not get affected due to unemployment. It guaranteed that most of the recruits should be employed and their talents should not go wasted or affected during the pandemic.

Supervision over state bar councils
One of the most important tasks of the bar council was to supervise state bar councils. It provided certain provisions for the working of the boards and ensured that every board worked towards ensuring legal aid to everyone during the time of the pandemic. The state bar council aided the bar council of India in the regulation of universities and supervision of employees.

The Indian judiciary and its challenges during the time of the pandemic
One of the most important things during the time of the pandemic was the maintenance of law and order in the country. Despite facing many challenges, the Indian judiciary worked restlessly toward providing justice to every citizen and adapted different methods to cope with the problems.

Response of the Judiciary during the time of the pandemic
Parameters for extremely Urgent cases
During the time of the pandemic, many courts across the countries were partially or fully closed. Due to this the process of the court was reduced prompting the question of which cases to be suspended and which cases should be processed. The cases which were allowed to be processed were only urgent. The definition of urgent cases varied from state to state and across different types of courts.

Examples of cases deemed to be urgent:
  1. Union of India & another v. UAE Exchange Centre
  2. Commissioner of Customs (Port) v. M/s Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL)
  3. PILCOM v. CIT, West Bengal -VII

Filling the legal vacuum
Due to the pandemic, many people lost their lives and their livelihoods. The judicial sector of a country also faced similar problems. Many people lost their lives and their means of income. This not only resulted in the delaying of justice but also created the problem of a legal vacuum. The 25 High courts of India have a combined strength of 1,098, with functioning 696, a shortfall of 402 judges according to the department of justice.

Use of IT Solutions and mechanism
IT was the only hope for mankind during the time of pandemics. All the companies and sectors continued working only because of IT. Due to unforeseen circumstances to completely transition onto the online mode. It took months and months but the people of India slowly and gradually got the hang of it. After the reopening of all sectors and fields, the Indian judiciary started working towards the development of digital infrastructure. Video conferencing courts and rooms were set up to help the judges, advocates, and people to get a better understanding of it.

Right to a speedy trial during the time of the pandemic:
In a country like India, which is so vast with a large number of populations. So, the probability of occurrence of crime increases because of the large number of people. After any such crime, if we asked them to knock the court, they used to say, "It will consume my time as well as money". They are not sure about their rights and justice but they are sure that the court will consume their time.

So, to curb all these issues, the concept of the right to a speedy trial is grown up. Right to a speedy trial is a concept in which the trial of cases is done as soon as possible, to make our judicial system more efficient and trustworthy. Every person has the right to court and right to justice, if a person cannot afford their advocate, it is the duty of the state to provide them a public prosecutor and it is mentioned under art. 39(A) of the constitution of India, which talks about free legal aid services.

The right to a speedy trial is first mentioned in the document of English law, the Magna Carta. Art. 21 states that "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure laid by law". It was declared in Katar Singh v. the State of Punjab, that the right to a speedy trial is an essential part of the fundamental right to life and liberty.

In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, it was held that the "right to a speedy trial" is a fundamental right implicit in the right of life and personal liberty provided under The Constitution of India, article 21. In this case writ for habeas corpus was filed in which women and children were kept behind the bars for years awaiting trial of their offenses, even if proved would not warrant punishment for more than a few months.

The court observed that no procedure which does not ensure a reasonably quick trial can be regarded as reasonable and fair. Hence ordered the Bihar government to release the undertrial prisoners on their bond.

Millions and millions of people suffered due to this pandemic all over the world. Not only people but their works and jobs relating to different sectors or professions also suffered. The whole world came to a halt. In these tough times, one of the essential things was to maintain law and order in a country. Due to the sudden announcement of the lockdowns, millions of people were traveling in the pandemic from one place in the country to another place. In these times the safeguarding of people's rights and the law was one of the biggest tasks that the judiciary faced.

In this article, it has been demonstrated about the problems and challenges faced by the Judiciary and its related people during the time of the pandemic. It not only incorporates the challenges faced by the people (advocate, lawyer, litigants, disputed parties, judges) but also the methods and techniques adopted by them to tackle all those problems. The pandemic gave us a new dimension or mode of living our lives and doing our work.

Case References:
  1. Katar Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1994 SCC 569
  2. Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar (1979) 3 SCR 169
  3. Union of India & another v. UAE Exchange Centre, SC, 2020, (Civil Appeal No. 9775 of 2011)
  4. Commissioner of Customs (Port) v. M/s Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Civil Appeal No. 6398, 2009
  5. PILCOM v. CIT, West Bengal, Civil Appeal No. 5749, 2012
  6. Krishna Veni Nagam v. Harish Nagam, 179A/ 2013

Written By: Siddhartha Makhija

I Siddhartha Makhija, hereby declare that all the content in this article which is titled, "COVID -19 Pandemic and Legal Education & Profession" is unpublished and uncopied. To the best of my understanding, this article is free from any plagiarism.

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