The Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) has addressed a letter to CJI SA Bobde, urging him to restore working of the Courts in a physical setting, from July, 2020.
The letter highlights that Open Court hearings are the "spine" of the Indian legal system and that Virtual Courts are not a substitute to physical Courts. Attention has also been drawn towards the "practical difficulties" in online filing and hearing of cases via video conferencing.
It is stated that lawyers/ litigants are often constrained from effectively mentioning their case in a virtual setting, due factors like lack of technical knowhow, inadequate infrastructural availability, financial constraints, etc.
SCAORA President, Shivaji M Jadhav, has thus urged the CJI on behalf of thousand of lawyers, to resume physical Court hearings upon re-opening in July 2020 after summer vacations. He said so in light of the announcement of the Unlock 1.0 and the measures to be undertaken to resume normalcy in a phased manner.
In this regard it is submitted that the Court may consider imposing conditions for the safety of all concerned, such as allowing limited number of lawyers for the matters, earmarked entry doors, etc.
The letter states that almost 95% lawyers are not comfortable with the Virtual Court hearings as they are not well equipped with knowledge on the use of computers. "The common feedback seems to be that the lawyers are unable to present their cases effectively in the Virtual medium and the same is acting as a major deterrent for lawyers to consent for such virtual hearings," the letter states.
Further the letter points out the following practical difficulties with the e-Courts:
The Association is further of the view that the financial problems being faced by many lawyers due to staggered working of Courts during the Lockdown period cannot be ameliorated unless the normal functioning of Courts is resumed.
Through this letter, the Association also expressed gratitude to the Court, for taking proactive measures to ensure access to justice in these difficult times of the pandemic.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the provision of the new E-Filing module software. We are truly honoured to receive such individualized services for lawyers which would enable them to now use their time in a more effective manner," the letter read.
Earlier this year, on April 28, the Bar Council of India had requested the CJI not to continue the system of E-filings and Virtual headings, post lockdown. "There is humongous difference in the technical knowhow of persons often according to age gap, and often according to difference in mode and manner of education, and resources and technology available from place to place," the Council had stated.
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