The Full Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday resolved to continue the system of hearing of matters through video conferencing, in the month of May.
The Full Court also decided to increase the number of sitting benches and expand the scope of matters that will be heard.
Earlier, the High Court had cancelled the summer vacations for all the courts in the state and had decided to conduct regular hearings in May.
However, in view of the prevailing circumstances, whereby a large number of Districts of the State have been declared as "red-zones", including the Districts of Chennai and Madurai, where the Principal Seat and the Bench of the High Court are situate, the High Court has resolved to continue to hear cases via video-conferencing.
"Looking to the peculiar grim situation of the State of Tamil Nadu in relation to the existing status of the threat of Corona Virus, the House was of the unanimous opinion that in order to meet the situation which is likely to continue in the month of May, 2020 as predicted, it may not be appropriate to resume regular and normal functioning as that may invite the possibility of congregation of lawyers and litigants, and violation of physical distancing norms keeping in view the large number of lawyers practising in the State, together with their staff, and the number of Subordinate Courts and Taluk Courts spread over throughout the 32 Districts of the State.
… the system of hearing of matters through remote video conferencing be continued," a statement issued by the Full Court read.
It is noteworthy however, that the High Court has decided to expand the scope of matters that will be taken up during this period.
The House has decided to "enhance the level and volume of functioning in a limited staggered manner" till May 31, 2020.
It has announced that "subject matters like Matrimonial cases; Domestic Violence cases; Senior Citizen cases Eviction, Rent Control cases; Criminal Appeals (Accused in custody); Motor Accident claims; Quashing of criminal proceedings on settlement; Ex-parte motions; Temporary injunction; Recovery matters arising out of loans and such Commercial matters that may need immediate attention may be heard by the respective Benches subject to cases being limited in number and according to their urgency or expediency."
This decision has been taken after receiving suggestions from the State Bar Council, the respective Bar Associations of the High Court, Advocate General, District Bar Associations and individual lawyers, including Senior Advocates.
To this end, the High Court has decided that some more benches will be constituted in addition to the present working number of Benches. It was decided that Two Division Benches and Ten Single Judge Benches will be made functional during this period in the Principal Seat of the High Court.
This decision was taken after the Full Court was satisfied with the availability of requisite infrastructure and technical manpower.
The availability of technical staff to handle the equipments for a simultaneous running of the hearings by an increased number of Judges in the High Court was assured by the Chairman of the Computer Committee.
Thus, the Full Court resolved as follows:
The Full Court has further resolved to put the annual general transfers of all the Judicial Officers in abeyance for a period of one year.
"In view of the extraordinary situation having arisen due to the impending Corona Virus and lockdown, it is unanimously resolved to put in abeyance the annual general transfers of all the Judicial Officers for a period of one year, subject to any exceptional cases and vacancies required to be filled in, that may be given effect to with the approval of the Chief Justice," the statement read.
The meeting of all the Judges of the High Court, including Judges from the High Court Bench at Madurai, was convened on April 30, 2020 at 11.00 AM through video-conferencing.
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