4 Nov 2022 6:25 AM GMT
Stressing that public access to the court proceedings is an essential requirement of an open court proceedings, a Patna High Court Judge on Thursday suggested doing away with a clause of the SOP (in operation) which 'almost' denies the litigants to witness the Court proceedings of their own casesJustice Chakradhari Sharan Singh also suggested doing away with the online hearings of the cases...
Stressing that public access to the court proceedings is an essential requirement of an open court proceedings, a Patna High Court Judge on Thursday suggested doing away with a clause of the SOP (in operation) which 'almost' denies the litigants to witness the Court proceedings of their own cases
Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh also suggested doing away with the online hearings of the cases on Fridays in the wake of post-COVID normalcy. He put forth his views in this regard while hearing a anticipatory bail matter.
It may be noted that an SOP in question for the functioning of the Court was issued on February 21, 2022 (presently in force) mandating that the High Court shall function in the physical mode four days a week, and one day (Friday) in Virtual mode. It also states that only the litigants and the parties concerned, who are represented by any Advocate, be allowed to enter inside the Court premises where their personal appearance is required by virtue of Court order.
Justice CS Singh found this clause to be affecting the administration of justice by almost denying even the litigants to witness the Court proceedings of their own cases.
"A Court cannot have a general discretion to exclude the litigants or even the public to watch the proceedings unless otherwise provided in accordance with law in larger public interest or for any other genuine and valid purpose. Denial to a litigant of an easy access to the court proceedings creates opacity in the court proceedings, which is opposed to the open court proceeding principle, in the absence of any exceptional circumstance. 8. In my view, in the light of subsequent developments, Clause 25 of the SoP might either have served its purpose while dealing with COVID-19 restrictions or it may not be presently serving any useful purpose, which aspect requires reconsideration at appropriate level."
He also noted that initialy for some period, the live streaming of the cases were being held, however, as on date, since there is no live streaming of any court proceeding, thus, the court proceedings of the High Court are completely shut for litigants and public and cannot be watched because of operation of Clause 25 of the SoP.
Further, regarding mandatory online hearings on Fridays, Justice CS Singh, in his order, pointed out that generally, the proceedings on Friday do not last for more than an hour, apparently, because the Advocates are now preferring that their cases be heard in physical mode, which requires a detailed hearing.
In view of this, he opined that it is a wastage of the judicial hours by adhering to Clause 1 of the SoP, issued nearly nine months back, to the effect that the Court shall function for four days only in physical mode and one day in virtual mode.
Further, referring to Clause 12 of the SoP, which requires wearing of face masks in proper manner and frequent use of hand sanitizers in the Court rooms, the Court remarked thus:
"I can say, based on appearance of the lawyers and the staff present in the court room, when I am writing this order and also based on my personal knowledge that wearing of masks by anyone in the Court premises is an exception and certainly not the practice."
Though Justice CS Singh did mention that these are purely administrative matters of the High Court, which are required to be dealt on the administrative side, however, he added, he was constrained to record his views in the present order since a polite request made by him to the Chief Justice to do away with on-line hearing of the cases on Friday was declined sans any discussion in that regard.
"The observations which have been made are merely views expressed by me in respect of functioning of the High Court in accordance with the SoP effective from 21.02.2022. The said SoP may be required to be revisited by Hon'ble the Chief Justice. There is no gainsaying that the decision of Hon'ble the Chief Justice in the matter of functioning of the High Court is paramount and final. However, in my view, said SoP, effective from 21.02.2022 issued by Hon'ble the Chief Justice should either be followed strictly or the SoP may be revisited in view of the prevalent situation by Hon'ble the Chief Justice, keeping in mind larger interest of justice delivery system," he added as he ordered the registry to forwarde the order to the CJ after attaching Bihar State Health Bulletin-COVID-19, dated 02.11.2022 in his order.
Case title - Rajesh Kumar v. The State of Bihar
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Pat) 38
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