15 Sep 2023 7:15 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday (September 15) asked the Registrar Generals of all High Courts and the Registrars of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to state on affidavits if they are allowing virtual hearings to continue. If the hybrid hearing option has been discontinued, then...
The Supreme Court on Friday (September 15) asked the Registrar Generals of all High Courts and the Registrars of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to state on affidavits if they are allowing virtual hearings to continue.
If the hybrid hearing option has been discontinued, then the reasons should be stated, the Court added.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud passed the direction while hearing a petition which complained that the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stopped virtual hearings completely. The petitioner Sarvesh Mathur, who appeared as a party-in-person, submitted that though the virtual hearing option was available during the COVID pandemic period, now it has been discontinued.
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention... we will do something we are thinking for long time to do.. We will ask HCs who have disbanded virtual hearings", CJI DY Chandrachud told the petitioner.
The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, decided to issue notice not only to the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court but also to all other High Courts. At this point, another lawyer mentioned that Tribunals are also not allowing virtual hearings. Then, the bench decided to issue notice to NCLAT, NCDRC and NGT. Another lawyer requested that notice should be issued to the Debts Recovery Tribunals too. However, CJI observed that issuing notice to all DRTs across the country might be time-consuming and said that the bench will at first deal with the three tribunals on a representative basis.
The bench also directed the service of notice on the Union Ministries and requested the assistance of the Solicitor General of India regarding DRTs and other Tribunals under various Ministries.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud is a vocal supporter of hybrid hearings. In February 2023, while hearing another petition seeking virtual hearings, CJI Chandrachud had expressed in the open court his anguish at various High Courts disbanding virtual hearings, despite making huge investments in the e-courts infrastructure.
"What some of the Chief Justices are doing is, all the money which we have spent, they're just disbanding the technological infrastructure which we have created for virtual hearings. I am very deeply disturbed by some of the High Courts doing this....Likewise, some tribunals are also disbanding. As if they're saying, technology was only for pandemic. Technology was not only for pandemic. It's here to stay here for future. We'll formulate an order and pass", CJI Chandrachud had said.
In May 2023, CJI Chandrachud said that he had written to all Chief Justices regarding the status of hybrid hearings.
Case Title : Sarvesh Mathur v. The Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court| W.P.(Crl.) No. 351/2023
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