Justice UU Lalit of Supreme Court on Wednesday indicated that there might be a possibility of resuming physical hearings in limited matters after a period of 2 weeks.
While hearing a matter, Justice Lalit candidly informed counsels appearing before him that medical experts had advised the 7-Judge Committee, which is looking into the issue of resumption of physical court hearings, to maintain status quo for the next 2 weeks.
After this period of two weeks, he added, the Judges Committee may explore the possibility of limited physical hearings in matters of custodial and death sentences, since the nature of such cases would require on the spot instructions and could be delayed.
"For the next two weeks, there won't be physical hearings. But after that, we could begin with custodial and death sentence matters. Maybe 1 or 2 matters a day in the post-lunch sessions. So that social distancing can be maintained and there's no crowding", he said.
It must be noted here, that the Supreme Court Judge, who is himself a member of the aforementioned Committee, only hinted at a possibility and nothing more.
A Supreme Court bench led by Justice UU Lalit remarks, while hearing a matter over Video Conferencing --- that physical hearing in limited matters may possibly resume in 2 weeks times.#supremecourtofIndia— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 5, 2020
A Supreme Court bench led by Justice UU Lalit remarks, while hearing a matter over Video Conferencing --- that physical hearing in limited matters may possibly resume in 2 weeks times.#supremecourtofIndia
This indication comes approximately 2 weeks after the 7-Judge Committee headed by Justice NV Ramana, on July 24, had then decided to review the situation after 2 weeks, in view of the medical advice to maintain status quo for a period of two weeks.
This decision had been communicated by the Committee during an interaction they had on July 24 with the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Dushyant Dave, President of Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), Shivaji M Jadhav and Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairperson, Manan Kuman Mishra.
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During this interaction, the judges expressed that they were fully conscious and deeply concerned about the difficulties faced by the lawyers and were anxious to gradually restore normalcy in physical functioning. However, they added that a decision in that regard has to be guided by a holistic assessment of the situation based on medical advice, and also taking into account the safety and health of lawyers, judges, litigants and court staff.
The Committee had assured that inputs and suggestions of the SCBA, SCAORA and BCI would be duly taken into consideration as regards timing and modalities for a gradual resumption of physical hearing of matters and restoration of normalcy in the premises of Supreme Court.
The Committee had also sought for suggestions from the SCBA and SCAORA on the categories of cases that may be taken up when physical functioning is resumed.
The Supreme Court has been hearing cases through video conferencing since March due to the covid-19 pandemic and has also allowed e-filing in place of physical filings.