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Health Rule of Law

State courts revert to virtual hearings amid Covid-19 surge

The exponential rise in Covid infections and deaths have compelled the courts to re-start online hearings

Adeeti Singh 19 Apr 2021

Image Courtesy:barandbench.com

In an attempt to break the chain of transmission and address the growing concern over the sudden rise in Covid-19 cases, some High Courts have completely stopped physical hearings, and have issued strict guidelines.

With almost fifty percent of the Supreme Court staff testing positive for Covid-19, the apex court moved to complete virtual mode on April 11. The circular issued by the apex court registry stated that the Judges will now be sitting from their homes, the Benches which were scheduled to sit at 10.30 A.M, will now sit at 11.30 A.M, and those which were scheduled to sit at 11.00 A.M will sit at 12 noon.

Justice DY Chandrachud had told NDTV, “Judicial work will not be affected by the pandemic.” Referring to the 1,600 video-conferencing links available with the SC, he said, “The Supreme Court has adequate infrastructure for judicial work,” adding, “Sixteen benches are functioning.”

On April 13, in order to place more restrictions, the apex court had issued additional guidelines as a precautionary measure. It directed, “All the entrants to the Supreme Court premises, i.e. the Registry staff, staff of the coordinate agencies, Ld. Advocates and their staff etc., if showing any symptoms similar to those notified for Covid-19 infection shall subject themselves to Rapid/RT-PCR test.”

The elevator in the court premises is not to be used by more than three persons at a time, and shall be used only for going upwards.

Delhi High Court

The Registrar General of the High Court issued an order on April 18 that all Benches will take up only extremely urgent matters filed in the year 2021 from April 19 onwards. On April 8, the High Court had issued an order that it will shift to virtual mode of hearings till April 23.

Today, on April 19, the Delhi district courts have decided to hear only ‘urgent matters’. The order issues by the Registrar General states that, “In view of the alarming rise in the Covid-19 cases in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, in continuation of this Court’s Office Order No.256/RG/DHC/2021 dated 08.04.2021, it is ordered that all the judicial officers of the District Courts in Delhi shall take up only urgent cases of their respective Courts, through videoconferencing mode. It is further ordered that all other matters listed before Delhi District Courts be adjourned en bloc by respective courts and information in this regard be uploaded on the website(s) of Delhi District Courts.”

The Delhi HC had resumed physical hearing on March 15, 2021. It also decided to make virtual hearings an exception and not the norm, by imposing various conditions which had to be met before a party could successfully seek a virtual hearing.

Gujarat High Court

This state’s court has not resumed physical functioning since the pandemic broke out in 2020. The Court has continued to function through video conference mode, bringing live proceedings to the public through platforms like YouTube.

Bombay High Court

On April 6, the High Court switched to virtual hearings and ordered for physical hearing only for “extremely urgent” criminal matters as per media sources. This virtual mode is to continue till May 7 although physical filing of cases is permitted.

As Maharashtra is reeling under the Covid crisis hitting a new peak, the Bombay High Court had also declared a holiday from April 11 to 17, 2021. Last year in December, the High Court had commenced physical hearing, amid protests from various sections of the Bar.

The Bombay Bar Association and 452 lawyers practicing in Mumbai had separately written to the Chief Justice, Dipankar Datta requesting that lawyers be given the option to choose between physical and virtual hearings, with no success, as per Bar & Bench.

Jammu and Kashmir High Court

The High Court extended till April 30, the application of its earlier order wherein it was decided that the High Court and District Courts in the State will hear cases only through virtual mode, reported LiveLaw.

The modified order issued by the Registrar General of the High Court on April 16 read, “After taking note of the rising trend of Covid-19 Infection cases and the prevailing situation due to the spread of such infection, the High Court order No. 189 of 2021/RG dated 05.04.2021, is extended up to 30th April, 2021.”

The order also reportedly says that the District and Sessions Judge may permit physical hearing in “criminal trials” where the accused persons are in custody, matrimonial cases, cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, compromise matters or in any other matter as deemed desirable in the courts under their jurisdiction.

Allahabad High Court

As per a Bar & Bench report, the Allahabad High Court has reverted to full virtual hearing effective April 12, 2021. The entry of lawyers, litigants, petitioners in-person and clerks to the court premises has been banned. However, filing of cases through physical form is permitted aside from the electronic mode.

Tamil Nadu High Court

In Tamil Nadu, the notification dated April 15 informed that the court will be hearing matters virtually till April 23.

The notification read, “Even though the situation in Tamil Nadu may be better than other places in the country, so as to ensure that immediate preventive measures are taken to arrest the further spread of the pandemic, the State Government has requested the High Court of Madras to take appropriate immediate measures so that the footfall in the court buildings is reduced considerably.”

Punjab and Haryana High Court

This High Court has decided that all its Benches will hear cases through video conference mode with effect from today, April 19, reported Bar & Bench. At least 12 Benches of the Court were hearing cases physically.

The High Court Bar Association had reportedly written to the Chief Justice urging him to adopt the hybrid mode of hearing cases in which lawyers can be given the option to choose between physical and virtual appearance.

Karnataka High Court

On April 15, a notice was issued prohibiting the entry of litigants and parties in-person inside the High Court complex as well as the District/Trial Courts in nine districts of the State. The High Court has been hearing matters virtually since April 8.

The Chief Justice AS Oka, as per Bar & Bench, has been urging judges and court staff above the age of 45 to get vaccinated and also minimise physical appearances.

Odisha High Court

The court had notified that it shall revert to virtual mode of hearing cases from April 5. It issued certain guidelines on March 31, directing that cases shall be filed through the drop-box near the premises or via email or the e-portal.

It also provided that certified copies have been suspended for the time being and the orders available on the official website is to be used.

Related:

Covid-19: Lockdown imposed in Delhi till April 26
SC judges to work from home after half the court’s staff tests Covid positive
Manmohan Singh offers advice to PM Modi on how to fight Covid-19

State courts revert to virtual hearings amid Covid-19 surge

The exponential rise in Covid infections and deaths have compelled the courts to re-start online hearings

Image Courtesy:barandbench.com

In an attempt to break the chain of transmission and address the growing concern over the sudden rise in Covid-19 cases, some High Courts have completely stopped physical hearings, and have issued strict guidelines.

With almost fifty percent of the Supreme Court staff testing positive for Covid-19, the apex court moved to complete virtual mode on April 11. The circular issued by the apex court registry stated that the Judges will now be sitting from their homes, the Benches which were scheduled to sit at 10.30 A.M, will now sit at 11.30 A.M, and those which were scheduled to sit at 11.00 A.M will sit at 12 noon.

Justice DY Chandrachud had told NDTV, “Judicial work will not be affected by the pandemic.” Referring to the 1,600 video-conferencing links available with the SC, he said, “The Supreme Court has adequate infrastructure for judicial work,” adding, “Sixteen benches are functioning.”

On April 13, in order to place more restrictions, the apex court had issued additional guidelines as a precautionary measure. It directed, “All the entrants to the Supreme Court premises, i.e. the Registry staff, staff of the coordinate agencies, Ld. Advocates and their staff etc., if showing any symptoms similar to those notified for Covid-19 infection shall subject themselves to Rapid/RT-PCR test.”

The elevator in the court premises is not to be used by more than three persons at a time, and shall be used only for going upwards.

Delhi High Court

The Registrar General of the High Court issued an order on April 18 that all Benches will take up only extremely urgent matters filed in the year 2021 from April 19 onwards. On April 8, the High Court had issued an order that it will shift to virtual mode of hearings till April 23.

Today, on April 19, the Delhi district courts have decided to hear only ‘urgent matters’. The order issues by the Registrar General states that, “In view of the alarming rise in the Covid-19 cases in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, in continuation of this Court’s Office Order No.256/RG/DHC/2021 dated 08.04.2021, it is ordered that all the judicial officers of the District Courts in Delhi shall take up only urgent cases of their respective Courts, through videoconferencing mode. It is further ordered that all other matters listed before Delhi District Courts be adjourned en bloc by respective courts and information in this regard be uploaded on the website(s) of Delhi District Courts.”

The Delhi HC had resumed physical hearing on March 15, 2021. It also decided to make virtual hearings an exception and not the norm, by imposing various conditions which had to be met before a party could successfully seek a virtual hearing.

Gujarat High Court

This state’s court has not resumed physical functioning since the pandemic broke out in 2020. The Court has continued to function through video conference mode, bringing live proceedings to the public through platforms like YouTube.

Bombay High Court

On April 6, the High Court switched to virtual hearings and ordered for physical hearing only for “extremely urgent” criminal matters as per media sources. This virtual mode is to continue till May 7 although physical filing of cases is permitted.

As Maharashtra is reeling under the Covid crisis hitting a new peak, the Bombay High Court had also declared a holiday from April 11 to 17, 2021. Last year in December, the High Court had commenced physical hearing, amid protests from various sections of the Bar.

The Bombay Bar Association and 452 lawyers practicing in Mumbai had separately written to the Chief Justice, Dipankar Datta requesting that lawyers be given the option to choose between physical and virtual hearings, with no success, as per Bar & Bench.

Jammu and Kashmir High Court

The High Court extended till April 30, the application of its earlier order wherein it was decided that the High Court and District Courts in the State will hear cases only through virtual mode, reported LiveLaw.

The modified order issued by the Registrar General of the High Court on April 16 read, “After taking note of the rising trend of Covid-19 Infection cases and the prevailing situation due to the spread of such infection, the High Court order No. 189 of 2021/RG dated 05.04.2021, is extended up to 30th April, 2021.”

The order also reportedly says that the District and Sessions Judge may permit physical hearing in “criminal trials” where the accused persons are in custody, matrimonial cases, cases under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, compromise matters or in any other matter as deemed desirable in the courts under their jurisdiction.

Allahabad High Court

As per a Bar & Bench report, the Allahabad High Court has reverted to full virtual hearing effective April 12, 2021. The entry of lawyers, litigants, petitioners in-person and clerks to the court premises has been banned. However, filing of cases through physical form is permitted aside from the electronic mode.

Tamil Nadu High Court

In Tamil Nadu, the notification dated April 15 informed that the court will be hearing matters virtually till April 23.

The notification read, “Even though the situation in Tamil Nadu may be better than other places in the country, so as to ensure that immediate preventive measures are taken to arrest the further spread of the pandemic, the State Government has requested the High Court of Madras to take appropriate immediate measures so that the footfall in the court buildings is reduced considerably.”

Punjab and Haryana High Court

This High Court has decided that all its Benches will hear cases through video conference mode with effect from today, April 19, reported Bar & Bench. At least 12 Benches of the Court were hearing cases physically.

The High Court Bar Association had reportedly written to the Chief Justice urging him to adopt the hybrid mode of hearing cases in which lawyers can be given the option to choose between physical and virtual appearance.

Karnataka High Court

On April 15, a notice was issued prohibiting the entry of litigants and parties in-person inside the High Court complex as well as the District/Trial Courts in nine districts of the State. The High Court has been hearing matters virtually since April 8.

The Chief Justice AS Oka, as per Bar & Bench, has been urging judges and court staff above the age of 45 to get vaccinated and also minimise physical appearances.

Odisha High Court

The court had notified that it shall revert to virtual mode of hearing cases from April 5. It issued certain guidelines on March 31, directing that cases shall be filed through the drop-box near the premises or via email or the e-portal.

It also provided that certified copies have been suspended for the time being and the orders available on the official website is to be used.

Related:

Covid-19: Lockdown imposed in Delhi till April 26
SC judges to work from home after half the court’s staff tests Covid positive
Manmohan Singh offers advice to PM Modi on how to fight Covid-19

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