Over 500 advocates practicing in the Delhi High Court and the subordinate courts, have made a representation before the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court suggesting a 'hybrid system' of conducting proceedings before the court.
While urging the court to continue hearing matters through video-conferencing, the representation states that in case there's a need to hold physical hearings, the following hybrid method can be adopted:
'Additionally, a hybrid system may be provisioned, wherein, if a matter is to be listed in physical court, arrangements may be put in place to facilitate counsels who may not wish to appear in physical court and prefer to conduct the hearing through the online system. We understand that such a system has worked successfully in the High Court of Karnataka. In such a case, counsels who wish to do so should be permitted to appear through virtual court while others who wish to appear in physical court may also be permitted to do so.'
The representation submits that ideally no physical hearing should take place as the rising cases of COVID19 is still a matter of grave concern in Delhi. It says:
'Commencing physical hearings at this stage, will exacerbate the gravity of the situation and put at peril the health and safety of all stakeholders. Therefore, the physical hearings may be taken up after the situation has improved, once the rate of increase of covid cases has stabilised / plateaued.'
While highlighting the model currently being followed by the Supreme Court, the representation submits that if physical hearings are to be continued, a system may kindly be considered, where, before listing a matter in physical court, and as a precondition for the same, consent of all parties appearing in the said matter must be obtained.
It is also highlighted that the current Standard Operating Procedures makes it really difficult for conducting hearing in matters that require assistance of more than one colleague, owing to the bulk of records.
It is also highlighted that having matters listed for both physical hearing and virtual hearing on the same day also poses a serious practical difficulty to the lawyers:
' There is no gainsaying that it is not practically possible or feasible while standing in a queue (to gain access to physical Court), to attend to and prosecute a matter that may be called out in a virtual court at the same time. Furthermore, the Wi-Fi signal in and around the court complex is patchy and will not enable seamless and effective assistance being rendered by counsel,
even if one were to attempt to do so while standing in the queue.'
Therefore, the representation requests the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to address the concerns of all the stakeholders while taking a decision on continuing with the system of physical hearings.