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'Pandemic Practically Over; No Justification To Not Open Supreme Court For Physical Hearings': SCBA President Writes To CJI

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
2 March 2021 4:16 PM GMT
Pandemic Practically Over; No Justification To Not Open Supreme Court For Physical Hearings: SCBA President Writes To CJI
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Stating that the pandemic is now "very much in control", the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association has urged the Chief Justice of India to open the Supreme Court for physical hearing of cases. In a letter addressed to the CJI on Tuesday, SCBA President Vikas Singh wrote, "There is no justification to not open the Supreme Court for physical hearing completely. As far as...

Stating that the pandemic is now "very much in control", the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association has urged the Chief Justice of India to open the Supreme Court for physical hearing of cases.

In a letter addressed to the CJI on Tuesday, SCBA President Vikas Singh wrote,

"There is no justification to not open the Supreme Court for physical hearing completely. As far as safety is concerned, it can be ensured that the lawyers continue to wear their masks and maintain as much practicably possible social distance so that we are not compromising the safety of the lawyers. Adequate thermal checks can be made at entry point for lawyers and litigants entering the Supreme Court and hand sanitizers can be placed outside each Courtroom. These steps are enough for starting full physical hearing in Supreme Court which is the only way this institution is supposed to function."

Singh asserted that virtual hearing was only a "stop-gap" arrangement to keep the wheels of justice moving during the pandemic, and that Open Court hearing is both a convention and a Constitutional requirement.

He stated that virtual hearings cannot by any stretch of imagination be equated to open hearing for the following reasons:

  • The right of the Registry to mute and unmute lawyers at will is completely contrary to the concept of open hearing. There are instances galore where lawyers are not unmuted when their matters are called out or where a matter is adjourned without it being called out and without unmuting the lawyers.
  • The quality of voice and video transmission has not been upto the mark resulting in lack of adequate communication between the counsels and the Judges.
  • There has been no mentioning in the Supreme Court because of the technical glitches in virtual hearing since the pandemic has hit, which has never been barred in the history of this Court. In fact, there has been a practice in this Court for mentioning in the Chief Court which has been completely denied to the Bar and also a practice of mentioning matters before judges in respect of matters which have already been listed before a particular Judge which also has not been permitted in this virtual platform created for the Supreme Court.
  • In batch matter hearings, invariably all counsels are not unmuted and hence a very many times the counsels are unable to make submissions.
  • Even in the platform being used by the Delhi High Court with the Registry no right reserved with the Registry to mute lawyers and the right to mute or unmute is exclusively vested with the counsels appearing in that Court.

Singh said that the younger members of the Bar are suffering greatly due to the current virtual system coupled with truncated listings, hence now, in view of the fact that the pandemic is practically over, at least in Delhi, there is no justification to continue with the virtual system and full physical court hearing ought to resume at the earliest in the larger interest of the Bar.

In related news, the Delhi High Court has decided to start complete physical hearing of Cases from March 15. 

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