14 Dec 2022 10:29 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, made it abundantly clear that there is no requirement to create new Benches of the Orissa High Court in a day and age when the use of technology, such as virtual courts and e-filing, is so widespread. It categorically rejected the resolution of the Central Action Committee of the Bar Associations which had proposed to withdraw the strike only if their demand...
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, made it abundantly clear that there is no requirement to create new Benches of the Orissa High Court in a day and age when the use of technology, such as virtual courts and e-filing, is so widespread.
It categorically rejected the resolution of the Central Action Committee of the Bar Associations which had proposed to withdraw the strike only if their demand for formation of a Bench in Sambalpur is met. The Apex Court directed the Committee to withdraw the strike unconditionally. It specifically recorded in the order -
"There is no high hope for formation of a Bench, much less any hope now. Even if there were some remote possibilities, it is lost now with their conduct."
The order was passed in the plea, inter alia, about lawyers' strike in Odisha, demanding a new High Court bench at Sambalpur. On the last date of hearing, the Supreme Court passed orders to the State Government of Odisha and the State Police to take stringent actions against lawyers who indulged in vandalism in court premises during their strike. It further directed the State Government and DGP, including the Police Officer In-Charge of the Sambalpur District, to be present before the court today through video-conferencing, explaining what steps have been taken against the protesting lawyers.
Senior Advocate Mr. Arvind Datar, opposing the strike, informed a Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka that the demand for setting up Benches of the Orissa High Court was not limited to the Bar Association of Sambalpur, other Bar Associations including Balasore, Rourkela, Koraput and Balangir have made similar demands. The Bench noted -
"This is now a prestige issue rather than any functional issue."
Mr. Datar informed the Bench Committee report of 1985 prescribes at least a distance of 300km between Benches. In view of the same, the Bench reckoned -
"In terms of that Committee report there is no question of setting up Benches elsewhere."
The Bench emphasised that the demand for Benches of the High Court have become redundant given the prevalence of technology in the court proceedings. Justice Kaul, particularly, recognised the efforts of the Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court who had created an effective e-court ecosystem in the State.
"We also note that the passage of time and the use of technology has made the parameters in a sense obsolete. The use of technology has been quite widespread now in Courts and is monitored by the High Court. Therefore any justification for having any Bench of the High Court no more exists."
The Bench also rejected the demand of Bhubaneswar Bar Association to shift the Orissa High Court from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar.
"In fact there are now counter demands of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association that the HC be shifted from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar. Naturally, Cuttack Bar Association opposes the same. The shifting of HC or creation of benches is a matter of serious administration which cannot be done by such whimsical demands."
At the request of Mr. Datar, who was apprehensive that until and unless the Apex Court clarified by way of a judicial order that the demands for Benches of High Courts would not be met, the lawyers who have participated in the strike would keep it alive in the hope that their demands would be met some day, the Bench categorically spelled out that there is no hope for creation of new Benches.
"We are putting this in order to foreclose these demands which are continuing to be raised repeatedly and have led to the violence."
The Bench noted that from any District Court in Odisha one can appear as well as file petitions in the Orissa High Court, which had been possible due to technological advancement. It accepted the proposal of Mr. Datar that one room in every District Court be made functional for Video Conferencing and there can be an adjourned back office, that would facilitate e-filing. The operationalisation of the same is to take place within a period of 3 months.
During the previous hearing as well, the Court had observed that the High Court benches are not necessary in a small state like Odisha.
[Case Title: M/s. PLR Projects Pvt. Ltd. v. Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd. And Ors. Diary No. 33859/2022]
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