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Gujarat HC Asks NCLT Ahmedabad To Formulate SOP For Virtual Hearing; Physical Hearing With Consent Of Counsel Only [Read Order]

Akshita Saxena
1 Sep 2020 9:07 AM GMT
Gujarat HC Asks NCLT Ahmedabad To Formulate SOP For Virtual Hearing; Physical Hearing With Consent Of Counsel Only [Read Order]
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The Gujarat High Court has directed the National Company Law Tribunal at Ahmedabad to frame a standard operating procedure (SOP) in consultation with the Bar Association, for virtual functioning of the Tribunal. The Division bench comprising Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J.B.Pardiwala has asked the Tribunal to complete this exercise within a week. "We direct the National...

The Gujarat High Court has directed the National Company Law Tribunal at Ahmedabad to frame a standard operating procedure (SOP) in consultation with the Bar Association, for virtual functioning of the Tribunal.

The Division bench comprising Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J.B.Pardiwala has asked the Tribunal to complete this exercise within a week.

"We direct the National Company Law Tribunal at Ahmedabad to take up the representation dated 29th July 2020 for consideration made by the Association with regard to streamlining virtual hearing before the Tribunal. We direct the Tribunal to give a personal hearing to Shri Mihir Thakore, the learned senior counsel, who, at present, is the President of the Ahmedabad National Company Law Practitioners Association and discuss various issues raised in the representation and try to resolve the controversy," the Court has ordered.

The order has come in a LPA preferred against a single Bench judgment whereby the Appellant's plea for conducting physical hearing was dismissed with costs.

The Appellant had submitted that having regard to the complex nature of the litigation, which the Tribunal is handling, it is not feasible to conduct the matter by mode of virtual hearing. He had therefore prayed that his case may be heard via physical mode, as and when permitted by the concerned authorities.

While dismissing this plea, the Single Judge had held that it is within the discretion of the Tribunal whether to conduct the proceedings by virtual mode or physical mode.

While agreeing this proposition, the Division Bench observed that the procedure that may be followed by the Tribunal must be consistent, and at the same time, should be reasonable so as not to put anyone in difficulty.

In the instant case however, it noted, that there is an "acute problem" faced by many lawyers in the NCLT at Ahmedabad as regards the mode and manner of the functioning of the Courts.

"We are of the firm view that if the Tribunal wants to go for physical hearing of any particular matter, it may go for it, but, at the same time, it must seek the consent of all the learned counsel appearing in the litigation and only thereafter, it may proceed. However, it should not happen that one set of lawyers would appear before the Tribunal physically and the Tribunal would take up the matter, hear those lawyers and decide the matter without the consent of the other set of lawyers appearing for the different parties. Such practice is bound to create hue and cry," the Bench observed.

It has therefore directed the Tribunal that if any matter is to be heard by adopting the mode of physical hearing, then the consent of all the learned counsel appearing in the litigation should be first obtained. If any counsel has any objection in this regard, then it should not be happen that one set of lawyers are heard physically and the other set of lawyers are heard through virtual mode. In such circumstances, the entire hearing should be virtual.

However, the Court has cautioned as regards adopting the mode of physical hearing as on date.

"We have no idea about the premises of the NCLT. What we have been able to gather from the submission of the learned counsel appearing in this matter is that it is dangerous to conduct physical hearing of the matters," it said.

Inter alia, the Court directed the Appellant herein to extend full cooperation in the proceedings before the NCLT and not create any hindrances of any nature so as to delay the proceedings.

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