The Patna High Court has devised a new system of Studio Court on an experimental basis, for the hearing of the cases. Under the new system, the Judges would sit in their chambers, while the lawyers will be appearing before the Bench/Judges from another courtroom (a studio courtroom) and the whole proceeding will take place in virtual mode.
This system of virtual hearing has been implemented by the Patna HC so that the lawyers can easily avail the video conferencing facilities and appear in their cases, without actually arranging required infrastructure for this purpose.
The Patna HC recently released the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the functioning of studio-based Courts. Because of this new system of Studio Court, for the first time in almost eight months, lawyers would be stepping inside the Court premises.
The Key Features and Directions issued under the SOP
· Provision for mandatory thermal check and sanitization has been made at the entry point into the Court premises, situated near the cycle stand at Gate No. 3. This shall be the only point for entry and exit into the Court premises for lawyers and other permitted persons for hearing through studio-based Courts.
· Entry into the Court premises, till further orders, of the Ld. Counsels/parties or other stakeholders, for hearing through studio-based Courts will be through daily "E-passes".
· E-Pass will be generated online by the learned Advocates who have to appear in the Court for hearing, from the website of Patna High Court by providing details pertaining to the case.
· A designated Court-staff shall be stationed near the entry point who shall note the name and mobile number of the concerned Advocate/litigant/Registered Clerk against the relevant item number(s) of the cause list.
· Only one arguing counsel along with one assistant Lawyer and one registered clerk, per party, shall be allowed to enter inside the premises and Court-rooms, whose cases are listed for the day.
· Once entry is permitted to any arguing counsel/ assistant Lawyer/registered clerk, as aforesaid, for any such case listed for the day, no other person, for the same case and for the same party shall be permitted to enter inside the Court premises.
· On entering the Court premises, the Ld. arguing counsel/ assistant Lawyer/registered clerk/parties shall proceed to the Court room where their case is listed and wait for their turn to enter respective Courtrooms where the hearing of their respective cases is scheduled.
· Seats in each Court Room shall be limited to bare minimum and entry in the Court shall be permitted to those Advocates/Party-in-person whose matter is called out for hearing and also for Advocates whose item is immediately next, subject to availability of space.
· The remaining Advocates shall wait in the Designated Area / Waiting Hall for their turn maintaining social distance. It shall be incumbent upon the Advocates/Party-in- person to maintain the minimum prescribed physical distancing norms between each other.
· Wearing of Face Masks in the proper manner, frequent use of hand sanitizer and maintaining physical distancing norms is mandatory for all entrants into the High Court premises, including the Court rooms.
· There shall be strict adherence to Social Distancing norms and directions/ guidelines/ SOPs/ advisories issued by the Government of India and the Government of Bihar in respect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
· No entry in the Court blocks shall be permitted to Juniors, Interns or Law students associated with the advocate concerned, relative of any party-in-person/litigant, non-registered clerks.
· Litigants and parties concerned, who are represented by any Advocate, shall only be allowed to enter inside the Court premises where their personal appearance is required by virtue of Court order.
· Special Visitor Pass shall be issued to the Litigants/parties concerned, on an application made by them or their Advocate along with the copy of the Court's order directing them to appear in person. Such application shall be made two days prior to the date of hearing to the learned Registrar General. Party shall then produce the Pass along with valid ID proof at the entry gate.
· The Advocates, Party-in-person and registered clerks above the age of 65 years and those suffering from co-morbidities are advised to refrain from entering the Court premises.
· Persons displaying symptoms of flu, fever, cough etc. shall not be permitted entry inside the Court premises.
· The Barrister Association, Lawyers Association, Advocates Association, all other associations, Advocate Library, public utility services and Canteens located in the High Court premises shall remain closed until further orders.
Notably, the Patna High Court on Thursday (01st October), while hearing a matter [In Re Functioning of Courts in Bihar during the period of COVID-19, Pandemic] mentioned the fact that between 24.3.2020 (when Lockdown commenced) and 30.9.2020 (Wednesday), a total of over 36,651 cases were mentioned, out of which 13,485 were allowed to be listed.
The Full Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and Justice Hemant Kumar Srivastava, further stated,
"As many as 2,844 civil and 7,260 criminal matters were filed through e filing mode, while 99 civil and 1,404 criminal cases were filed in physical mode. The hearing was conducted in respect of 10,036 civil matters and 27,109 criminal matters through e- mode, and 309 civil and 1,814 matters in physical mode. Disposal stood at 3,784 civil and 14,273 criminal matters in e-mode and 1 civil matter and 952 criminal matters in physical mode." (emphasis supplied)
Earlier, while hearing this matter [In Re Functioning of Courts in Bihar during the period of COVID-19, Pandemic] the Patna High Court on Wednesday (30th September) had decided the parameters for e-filing, physical filing, listing and hearing in consonance with all the stakeholders.
The Full bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and Justice Hemant Kumar Srivastava had taken into consideration the suggestions given by Advocates' Association, Lawyers' Association and Bar Association of Patna High Court.
Click Here To Download SOP