The Madhya Pradesh High Court has issued an additional SOPs for the functioning at Principal Seat at Jabalpur and other Benches at Indore and Gwalior as well as in District Courts in view of the increase in Covid-19 cases and prevalent pandemic situation in the State. The said additional SOP will be in addition to the earlier SOPs other relevant circulars issued on the hybrid system till date. The said SOP shall come into effect from 5th April 2021.
Additional SOP for High Court
The Additional SOP issued dated 3rd April 2021 for the functioning of High Court reads thus:
"Keeping in view the present situation of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the State of Madhya Pradesh, Hon'ble the Chief Justice, High Court of Madhya Pradesh, upon consideration of the recommendations of the Hon'ble Special Committee of this High Court and after due deliberations with the Advocate General of the State of M.P., representatives of State Bar Council of M.P., Senior Advocates Council and High Court Bar Associations Jabalpur, Indore & Gwalior, has been pleased to issue this Additional S.o.P. for the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Principal Seat Jabalpur and its Benches at Indore & Gwalior."
Virtual Hearings To Be Encouraged Regardless of Age of Advocates and Litigants
According to the SOP, the hearing of cases in which urgent listing applications are filed will continue at the Principal Seat at Jabalpur and other benches by default, through physical mode. However it has been clarified that the virtual hearing shall be encouraged regardless of the age of advocates or litigants who wish to appear by virtual mode for hearing in their respective cases.
The link in such cases of hybrid hearings shall be generated in advance which will be made available on SMS or e-cause list dash board in consonance of the earlier SOP and notice published in this regard.
Advocates above 60 years of Age and Others Having Co-Morbidities to Appear Virtually
Moreover, the SOP further mentions that the advocates and litigants who are above the age of 60 years and all those having co-morbidities are requested to appear only through virtual mode.
Advocates and their clerks are also requested to use the category wise Drop Boxes placed in front of filing counters instead of physical filling. Moreover, the SOP states that e mentioning of urgent listing of matters will continue via chat box of the Jitsi Video conferencing platform as per the arrangements mentioned in earlier SOP.
"No litigant/person will be permitted to enter the High Court Premises unless there is a specific direction by the Hon'ble Court. In case the presence of a litigant is directed by the Hon'ble Court, then such litigant will produce copy of the order directing his/her presence along with an ID proof at the entry gate of the High Court." The SOP reads.
Avoid Overcrowding, Entry of Advocates to be Regulated as per Social Distancing Norms
Furthermore, the advocates are requested to enter the High Court premises only if their case is listed to avoid overcrowding inside the High Court. The Advocates coming to the court rooms shall be regulated as per the availability of space inside the court rooms in view of the social distancing norms.
The SOP further mentions the following guidelines to be followed:
1. To avoid over-crowding in the Court Rooms, learned Advocates/ Litigants are requested to wait for their turn outside the Court Room, by maintaining physical distancing and enter in the Court Room only when their cases is likely to be called out within next 10 to 15 cases in the list.
2. Entry of unauthorized persons in the High Court premises will be prohibited. Gathering, even in small groups, shall also be prohibited. Office bearers of the Bar arc requested to render due assistance in this regard
3. All the stakeholders will use sanitization devices/wash basins too frequently sanitize/clean their hands.
4. All the Guidelines/Instructions, such as undergoing thermal screening, maintaining social distance, wearing of mask, proper sanitization etc., issued from time to time by the Central Government/State Government and High Court for prevention of Coronavirus (Covid-19), will be strictly followed and adhered to by all concerned.
Additional SOP for District Courts
The Additional SOP as regards to the district courts amends the earlier SOP issued dated 15th January 2021 and other circulars issued by the High Court.
According to the said SOP, it has been mentioned that the District and Sessions Judges will have discretion to regulate physical hearing/virtual hearing.
"Depending upon the situation of a particular district in which the numbers of Covid patients are on higher side, the concerned District Judge may opt for total virtual hearing. However, where the situation is under control, virtual hearing alongside the physical hearing may also be continued." The SOP reads
Moreover, it has been stated that no litigant or person will be permitted to enter the court premises unless there are specific directions by the court for his / her appearance.
Furthermore, the SOP states that District Judges of the districts, wlhere the number of Covid patients is on higher side will take necessary steps with regard to compliance of SOP dated 15.01.2021 and other circulars issued by the High Court of M.P. from time to time in this regard.
"All the District & Sessions Judges of the State are requested to send regular feedback with regard to physical/virtual hearing in their respective Districts." the SOP reads.