Supreme Court could opt for combination of physical and virtual hearings
Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde constituted a seven-judge committee comprises Justice NV Ramana, Justice Arun Mishra, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice UU Lalit, Justice AM
Khanvilkar, Justice RF Nariman, Justice L Nageshwara Rao. Earlier this week, the Committee headed by Justice N.V. Ramana held extensive discussions on the possibility of introducing daily open court proceedings, considering the urgent demands raised by the bodies of various advocates.
The virtual meeting was attended by the office bearers of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) and the Bar Council of India (BCI). One of the recommendations that it addressed was the operation of both physical and virtual court proceedings. The Committee, however, stated that experts had recommended that physical hearings may re-start after 2 weeks and upon fresh review at that point.
SCBA President Dushyant Dave and SCAORA President Shivaji Jadhav urged to committee to resume physical working in courts from 18 th of August onwards with all the safety measures because even after 2 weeks the pandemic situation might be the same as it is now.
The Committee of the Supreme Court of India is seriously considering the resumption of physical functioning for at least 2-3 benches of the court from the third week of August.
“The Hon’ble Committee has, while assuring to make their recommendation to Hon’ble Chief Justice, assured at-least three courts can start on trial basis” SCBA President Dave has said.
“The Hon’ble judges committee is seriously considering to start at-least 2-3 physical courts from the next week and in the meantime Registry would take necessary steps to prepare the courts for physical functioning” SCAORA President Shivaji Jadhav stated.
Physical courts when reopened, would operate in addition to the virtual hearings that are currently taking place. Lawyers and litigants would have the option of joining the hearings through video conferencing.
Earlier The Bar Council of India (BCI) complained against virtual courts, saying only privileged lawyers have access to digital hearings. The limited functioning of the court has also adversely affected young lawyers, it said.
In last meeting with the committee The Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Bar Council of India have made representations to the court that a majority of the lawyers feel that they cannot effectively present their arguments at virtual hearings. They have been urging the court to resume physical court hearings from July.
The Supreme Court will begin hearing both miscellaneous and routine cases, giving lawyers some respite. It comes at a time when courts since the Covid-19 pandemic tend to have been struck the hardest by lockdowns. The judiciary, still reeling under immense pendency of proceedings, finds that "internet hearings" did not offer much relief as they are meant for urgent matters only.
The Physical courts are likely to hear matters from the final hearing list that was published before the COVID-19 Lockdown. The Final decision on these suggestions will be taken by the 7 judge Committee in couple of days.
The list published before COVID-19 Lockdown was published on the Supreme Court official website as tentative list of regular matters to be listed in seriatim in coming weeks. The list was prepared on the basis of list published on 06.03.2020.