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[COVID-19] SC Issues Slew Of Directions To Implement Video Conferencing In All Courts Across The Country [Read Order]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
6 April 2020 11:40 AM GMT
[COVID-19] SC Issues Slew Of Directions To Implement Video Conferencing In All Courts Across The Country [Read Order]
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"Every individual and institution is expected to cooperate in the implementation of measures designed to reduce the transmission of the virus. The scaling down of conventional operations within the precincts of courts is a measure in that direction." The Supreme Court on Monday issued a slew of directions in order to streamline the functioning of courts via video conferencing...

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"Every individual and institution is expected to cooperate in the implementation of measures designed to reduce the transmission of the virus. The scaling down of conventional operations within the precincts of courts is a measure in that direction."

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a slew of directions in order to streamline the functioning of courts via video conferencing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao highlighted the immense need to observe social distancing alongside unhindered access to justice. It remarked,

"Access to justice is fundamental to preserve the rule of law in the democracy envisaged by the Constitution of India. The challenges occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 have to be addressed while preserving the constitutional commitment to ensuring the delivery of and access to justice to those who seek it…Court hearings in congregation must necessarily become an exception during this period."

Thus, in exercise of its power under Article 142 of the Constitution the bench directed,

  • "All measures that have been and shall be taken by this Court and by the High Courts, to reduce the need for the physical presence of all stakeholders within court premises and to 4 secure the functioning of courts in consonance with social distancing guidelines and best public health practices shall be deemed to be lawful;
  • The Supreme Court of India and all High Courts are authorized to adopt measures required to ensure the robust functioning of the judicial system through the use of video conferencing technologies;
  • Consistent with the peculiarities of the judicial system in every state and the dynamically developing public health situation, every High Court is authorised to determine the modalities which are suitable to the temporary transition to the use of video conferencing technologies;
  • The concerned courts shall maintain a helpline to ensure that any complaint in regard to the quality or audibility of feed shall be communicated during the proceeding or immediately after its conclusion failing which no grievance in regard to it shall be entertained thereafter.
  • The District Courts in each State shall adopt the mode of Video Conferencing prescribed by the concerned High Court.
  • The Court shall duly notify and make available the facilities for video conferencing for such litigants who do not have the means or access to video conferencing facilities. If necessary, in appropriate cases courts may appoint an amicus-curiae and make video conferencing facilities available to such an advocate.
  • Until appropriate rules are framed by the High Courts, video conferencing shall be mainly employed for hearing arguments whether at the trial stage or at the appellate stage. In no case shall evidence be recorded without the mutual consent of both the parties by video conferencing. If it is necessary to record evidence in a Court room the presiding officer shall ensure that appropriate distance is maintained between any two individuals in the Court.
  • The presiding officer shall have the power to restrict entry of persons into the court room or the points from which the arguments are addressed by the advocates. No presiding officer shall prevent the entry of a party to the case unless such party is suffering from any infectious illness. However, where the number of litigants are many the presiding officer shall have the power to restrict the numbers. The presiding officer shall in his discretion adjourn the proceedings where it is not possible to restrict the number."

The bench urged for cooperation of all courts, judges, litigants, parties, staff and other stakeholders for successful implementation of the above directions so as to ensure that court premises do not contribute to the spread of virus.

The court also underlined that modern technological advancements already adopted by the Indian judiciary will enable effective administration of justice, virtually.

"Technology has facilitated advances in speed, accessibility and connectivity which enable the dispensation of justice to take place in diverse settings and situations without compromising the core legal principles of adjudication. Indian courts have been proactive in embracing advancement in technology in judicial proceedings. The Indian judiciary has incorporated Information and Communication Technology systems through the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project (e-Courts Project) as part of the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP). The robust infrastructure in place has reduced conventional impediments and legal uncertainty surrounding the use of virtual courts," the bench remarked.

The matter is now listed for after four weeks and the abovementioned directions will operate until further orders.

Click Here To Download Order

Read Order


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