Supreme Court refuses to recognize Virtual Hearing as Fundamental Right

Anushka Sharma

Published On: October 16, 2021 at 14:00 IST

The National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice (an advocacy NGO that campaigns for judicial reforms), former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi, and Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Riberio recently moved the Supreme Court of India to recognize access to Virtual Court Hearings as a Fundamental Right.

The Petition also asked the Supreme Court to prevent High Courts from terminating virtual court hearings in their Jurisdictions without first seeking consent from the Apex Court.

According to the Petitioners, Virtual Court allows litigants to address the Courts and obtain Justice at a low cost.

They stated that it allows a rural Indian man to fight his cases without burning a hole in his pocket while sitting in his village.

They further claimed that, as a result of Virtual Hearings, Litigants now have the option of hiring a local Lawyer of their choosing, promoting Equal Access to Justice.

The Court, on the other hand, was not satisfied that Virtual Court hearing access should be elevated to the status of a Fundamental Right.

The Court further reminded the Petitioners that the new virtual hearing method was established so that the courts could continue to operate uninterrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic’s unanticipated circumstances.

The Supreme Court stated that the physical functioning of courts does not limit the rights of Indian citizens because only a small percentage of cases are brought to the Supreme Court for adjudication, and most cases are dealt with at the Trial Courts/District Courts, which are easily accessible to all citizens of the country.

The general reaction to the idea of substitution of physical courts by virtual ones was best captured by the Supreme Court when it remarked, “If we allow virtual courts, that will be sounding the death knell for physical functioning of courts (in India)”.

Also Read: What challenges were faced due to virtual hearings in the pandemic?

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