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Endeavour to Conduct Virtual Hearings Once a Week, Restricted Entry for Litigants – Bombay High Court's Review Committee

Sharmeen Hakim
31 Aug 2021 4:54 AM GMT
Endeavour to Conduct Virtual Hearings Once a Week, Restricted Entry for Litigants – Bombay High Courts Review Committee
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Bombay High Court refused to continue its unconditional extension of all interim orders in Maharashtra beyond August 30, given the resumption in the physical functioning of courts.

With the possibility of a third wave, the Bombay High Court has decided to continue restricting the entry of litigants inside the court's premises and endeavour to implement a complete hybrid system of hearing in all courts. In its administrative committee meeting chaired by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta on Monday, it was decided that litigants will be permitted inside court only if...

With the possibility of a third wave, the Bombay High Court has decided to continue restricting the entry of litigants inside the court's premises and endeavour to implement a complete hybrid system of hearing in all courts.

In its administrative committee meeting chaired by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta on Monday, it was decided that litigants will be permitted inside court only if their presence is required. Lawyers and clerks shall be allowed after showing their ID cards.

The High Court partially re-started physical hearings from August 2, 2021, taking up cases physically on 3 days and virtually on one day. The CJ's court and few other benches have a hybrid system for functioning.

During the review meeting, judges said that most lawyers preferred to appear physically.

"High Court shall now work physically on 4 days and virtually on 1 day, and efforts shall be made so that all court preside virtually on one day," the Bombay Bar Association said in a statement.

An SoP is likely to be issued soon in this regard.

The following decisions were taken in the meeting -

(1) Steps are being taken to fully implement a hybrid system in Bombay High Court's courtrooms approximately a month. However, existing hybrid courts will continue to operate on a hybrid basis.

(2) Circulation of matters shall be via precipice sent by emails for the time being. However, mentioning on virtual platform will be permitted.

(3) Litigants will be permitted inside court premises only if the court requires their presence. Clerks of advocates shall be allowed in High Court premises only upon production of identity card.

(4) High Court shall work physically on 4 days and virtually for 1 day, and efforts shall be made so that all courts will preside virtually on one day.

"The MCGM's Additional Commissioner and Dr Rahul Pandit from Supreme Court-appointed Task Force were present. They briefed the members of the Associations and stated that number of COVID positive cases being reported presently are a matter of concern. Given the prevailing circumstances , it was suggested that to avoid crowding, litigants should not be permitted inside court premises," the statement said.

The Bombay HC at its principal seat in Mumbai and benches at Aurangabad, Nagpur and the Bombay High Court at Goa went back to virtual hearings in April 2021, owing to the covid-19 second wave.

The HC refused to continue its unconditional extension of all interim orders in Maharashtra beyond August 30 given the resumption in the physical functioning of courts (Suo Motu PIL No. 1 of 2021).

A decision for district courts will be taken after the State Government's fresh directions on the issue.

Apart from the Bombay High Court's administrative committee and members of the State Task Force, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representatives of the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, Bombay Bar Association, Advocates Association of Western India (AAWI), Bombay Incorporated Law Society were present at the meeting.

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