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District Courts Expected To Follow Orders Regarding Virtual & Hybrid Hearings In Letter & Spirit: Delhi High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
20 Jan 2022 3:00 PM GMT
District Courts Expected To Follow Orders Regarding Virtual & Hybrid Hearings In Letter & Spirit: Delhi High Court
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The Delhi High Court on Thursday said that it expects the judicial officers of the district and sessions courts to follow the order passed by it regarding holding of virtual and hybrid hearings in letter and spirit. A Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh also said that all such courts should keep their weblinks open on every working day from the start of the Court...

The Delhi High Court on Thursday said that it expects the judicial officers of the district and sessions courts to follow the order passed by it regarding holding of virtual and hybrid hearings in letter and spirit.

A Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh also said that all such courts should keep their weblinks open on every working day from the start of the Court functioning i.e. 10 AM till such Court holds its sittings, so that any counsel or party wishing to join virtually is able to join the proceedings even without any prior intimation.

"If any counsel or litigant has any grievance with regard to any particular court not following the system, it should be open to the party/ counsel to make a grievance before the concerned district and sessions judge and tribunals," the Court said.

The bench also added that if any such grievances are received, the concerned district and sessions judge and the presiding officer of the tribunal concerned is expected to look into the same and remedy the situation.

The Court was was dealing with a plea filed by Anil Kumar Hajelay, seeking hybrid hearings for the benefit of counsels who suffer from co-morbidities and are unable to appear before the Court physically, due to Covid-19.

Earlier, the Court had called for a report from all the district judges, disclosing the details of the courts which were not complying with its direction to allow hybrid or video conferencing facility at the request of parties.

Accordingly, today the Court was informed by the counsel representing the High Court that a status report has been filed with regards to the said survey. It was stated that the survey was underway and the report was expected by February 10, 2022. It was further submitted that the action for implementation of the LAN network would also be undertaken in the said courts.

The Court also perused the Status report filed by the food and civil supplies department of the Delhi Government. As per the status report, the necessary equipment for the virtual hearing facility had been procured and an assurance was given that all the consumer forums will be in a position to hold virtual courts within one week.

Furthermore, the Court also dealt with an application filed by Hajelay stating that one of his personal matter was dismissed for non-prosecution by a Metropolitan Magistrate in Patiala House Courts after a request for virtual hearing was made by him. He alleged that despite repeated emails and communication made to the Court staff, no adequate response was received resulting to his non-appearance and dismissal of the matter.

Therefore, in the previous hearing, the Court had directed the concerned Metropolitan Magistrate to respond to the application and an explanation was called.

Today, the concerned MM had offered her explanation for the petitioner experiencing difficulty in appearing virtually in the Court. On not being satisfied with the explanation offered, the Court asked the MM Judge to appear before the Court virtually.

Accordingly, the Judge appeared and stated that she was not informed that a request for a virtual hearing had been made by the counsel and that appropriate action was initiated against the court staff.

She further stated that standing instructions have been given to the court staff to keep the weblinks open everyday sharp at 10 AM and also to keep the same open till the court hours or till the time the causelist is exhausted.

The Court therefore counselled the Judge and emphasized that orders issued by the High Court, whether on the administrative or judicial side, have to be scrupulously obeyed.

The Court therefore directed that further status report be filed in the matter before next date of hearing. The matter will now be heard after four weeks.

Earlier, the Court had said that when there was an order of the Full Court permitting subordinate courts to allow hybrid or video conferencing facility at the request of parties, the judicial officers were bound to follow the same.

In the previous course of hearings, expressing its apprehension on the increasing number of Covid-19 cases, the Court had observed that the system of infrastructure for conducting hybrid hearings in district courts and other quasi judicial bodies in the city must be in place in case the situation so arises.

Previously, observing that citizens' right of access to justice has been gravely hampered due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Court had directed the Delhi Government to take expeditious steps for providing infrastructure and other facilities for hybrid hearings in district courts and quasi-judicial bodies.

It also clarified that in case the said proposal is turned down by the Delhi Government, it will place before the Court complete statement of expenditure incurred by it April 1, 2020 onwards, on the grant of subsidies and public advertisements. 

"Access to justice is the right which is available to all citizens and on account of ongoing pandemic, the same has been gravely hampered. The district courts as well as consumer forums/ tribunals are not being able to function efficiently due to lack of infrastructure and other facilities. The arrears of cases are mounting, people have to wait for redressal of their grievances," the bench had said.

Case Title: ANIL KUMAR HAJELAY & ORS. v. HON'BLE HIGH COURT OF DELHI

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