Coronavirus | Supreme Court to explore feasibility of physical court hearings

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will explore the feasibility of physical appearances of advocates in the court while adhering to physical distancing norms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The court has been hearing urgent cases through videoconference throughout the period of the lockdown. The Benches hearing these cases sit in the courtrooms while lawyers, who are supplied with video links, make their submissions from their homes or offices. The court had named this mechanism as the ‘virtual court’ system.

However, the Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association (SCAORA) has been making representations to the top court that a majority of the lawyers find that they cannot effectively present their arguments during virtual court hearings.

SCAORA had recently written to the court to begin physical court hearings from July for the benefit of the lawyers.

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The Bar Council of India (BCI) had previously urged the Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde to resume physical court hearings from June 1.

BCI chairperson and senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra had written in a representation to the CJI that only a “handful of privileged class of advocates are beneficiaries of the virtual court system”.

In its short circular, the court indicated that it was open to the possibility of physical court hearings, provided advocates and parties who come in-person to present their cases give a joint consent with regard to their “willingness for physically appearing and arguing in court”.

The court said it would consider the possibility subject to the availability of Benches, orders of the competent authority and physical distancing norms.

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