"Due to the unforeseen and unprecedented pandemic situation, the Hon'ble Courts to take the extraordinary step of convening due to Video Conferencing, which is laudable. However, it is submitted that they are not substitutes for physical Court hearing. Advocates and Litigants are facing some serious difficulties, especially in terms of connectivity/network/audibility. The present case is a classic example of the same."
The National Information Technology Sena, through its General Secretary, has moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of a dismissal order passed by the Court on May 15, 2020 and restoration of the writ petition filed by it.
Last month, the Petitioner along with Advocate Rajesh Inamdar had approached the Supreme Court praying that the March 20 Advisory of the Labour and Employment Ministry, the March 29 GO of the Central government and the various state government resolutions, so far as they relate to the directions to the employers of both the private and public companies to not lay off/terminate employees or cut their salaries, in the wake the COVID lockdown, be implemented.
When the matter came up for hearing on May 8, the Top Court agreed to examine the issue regarding mass termination of employees with a direction to remove Inamdar (Petitioner No. 1) from the array of parties.
However, when the matter was heard on May 15, a special bench comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai dismissed the petition for non-removal of Inamdar as a party.
Disputing this aspect the Petitioner has contended that the dismissal order was passed "on completely incorrect/mistaken notion" that the Petitioner was an Advocate before the Supreme Court.
The plea clarifies that Petitioner No. 1 who was an advocate was deleted with leave of the Court vide order dated 08.05.2020 and the list of parties had been duly amende however, the Petitioner's Advocate was prevented from pointing this out to the court due to technical glitches in the video conferencing app, Vidyo.
The application filed in this behalf states,
"The Advocate on Record of the Petitioner amended the cause title of the petition, making the erstwhile Petitioner No. 2 as the sole Petitioner, and deleting Petitioner No. 1 on 11.05.2020 and uploaded the same on the e-filing webportal of 4 the Hon'ble Court. The same was also emailed to the PIL Section of the Registry…Subsequent thereto the website of this Hon'ble Court was updated to reflect NITES as the sole Petitioner.
…On day of hearing the Vidyo app on which virtual hearings are conducted was facing several technical and connection issues, wherein several counsels were unable to connect and also audio/video were not functioning and were raising concerns regarding the same…
when Item no. 26 was called out, due to a technical glitch, neither the Advocate on Record, nor the Advocate on the matter (Mr. Rajesh Inamdar), who was also on the Video Conference, were audible to the Hon'ble Court. The Hon'ble Court dismissed the matter on the sole ground that it had been filed by a lawyer, and the neither the Advocate on Record nor the Advocate was able to point out to the Hon'ble Court that the Advocate was no longer the Petitioner…"
The plea further states that, immediately after order of dismissal was passed, the Advocate on Record attempted to get in touch with various officers of the Registry/Court Masters in order to make a mention before the Court to apprise the court of the true facts but, in vain.
"The Counsels made attempts in the whatsapp group to request other counsels apprise the Hon'ble Court regarding the correct facts and the technical glitches in the functioning of the App, however to no avail," the application further reads.
In addition to this, the Petitioner has informed the court, their counsel wrote an email to the Helpline Department as well as the Secretary General of the Court and Secretary of the SCAORA raising this grievance, but no action was taken thereon.
Aggrieved by such state of affairs the Petitioner has submitted,
"Due to the unforeseen and unprecedented pandemic situation, the Hon'ble Courts to take the extraordinary step of convening due to Video Conferencing, which is laudable. However, it is submitted that they are not substitutes for physical Court hearing."
The application further sates,
"Advocates and Litigants are facing some serious difficulties, especially in terms of connectivity/network/audibility. The present case is a classic example of the same. It is submitted that all the matters in the batch were placed for next week, except the present case, which was dismissed by the Hon'ble Court on the notion that it had been filed by an Advocate. It is submitted that the Advocate on Record/Advocate in the matter were unable to bring to the notice of the Hon'ble Court the Order dated 08.05.2020, due to the technical lags in the Virtual Court hearing."to substantiate the same the Petitioner has annexed with the Application the entire chat history of whatsapp group created and the concerns raised by the Counsel for the Petitioner and several other counsels".
The Petitioner has submitted that the original petition is crucial to secure the rights of middle class employees, who will be adversely affected if the "unregulated mass terminations and delayed payment of salaries or pay cuts" continues.
The Application is drawn by Rajesh Inamdar and Amit Pai Advocates.
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