Delhi Courts to hear matters physically on every alternate day; video conferencing to continue on non-physical days

Jan18,2021 #Delhi #Physical Hearing

Umamageswari Maruthappan

The district courts in Delhi have resumed physical hearing of cases from 18th January 2021.

The practice will be followed on an alternate day basis and courts will continue to hear cases through video conferencing on non-physical days.

This came into effect following the Delhi High Court’s notice (dated 14th January 2021) directing all its subordinate courts to begin physical hearing of cases on an alternate basis.

The decision was lauded by several advocates including young professionals who, and bar associations which, long-awaited the reopening of courts.

“This decision will help those lawyers to take up the matter physically and earn money for their livelihood,” stated Mehul Prasad, a young lawyer.

There has been this demand, through letters and petitions, almost all over the country seeking resumption of court proceedings physically.

Several State High Courts including those of Gujarat, Madras, Punjab and Haryana and Patna are looking forward to start functioning in physical mode and have issued notices to their subordinate courts in this regard.

However, the Supreme Court seems to be reluctant to give a go-ahead signal. On 12th January 2021, the Chief Justice Of India, S A Bobde stated his concern over resuming physical hearings.

“If physical courts are started, the number of fatalities will increase,” the CJI stated. The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, pointed out the experiences of some High Courts which had to close down its courts due to spread of Covid-19 and non-appearance of lawyers.

In another attempt to put forth this plea, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) wrote a letter to the CJI seeking reopening of physical courts. Over 500 lawyers joined hands together to make this request by citing out issues involved in virtual hearings.

Responding to the SCBA’s letter, former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi pointed out the advantages of virtual courts in his letter to the CJI and stated that “If Courts Adopt Virtual Court System, It May Lead To A Better Rule Of Law.”

Amidst this, the Delhi High Court came up with a notification to increase its benches for physical hearing to eleven from January 18 and also notified its subordinate courts to resume physical hearings on alternate day basis from 18th January 2021.

This was challenged before the Supreme Court by Advocates Kartik Nayar, Nancy Roy, Sachit Jolly and Amit Bhagat.

“The impugned notification is in utter and complete disregard of the life, health and well-being of the practicing advocates, litigants, in addition to being bad in law and violative of fundamental rights of the advocates and other personnel.. it is also against the interest and safety of the public and society at large, the intermingling of an alarmingly increased number of advocates, clerks, court staff, and litigants poses an increased risk of the spread of the infection and fatalities,” the petition states.

The matter is pending before the Apex Court. Notwithstanding, physical hearing of cases have begun in all district courts of Delhi.

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