SC goes virtual; hearings conducted on video-conferencing
New Delhi, March 27 (IANS): For the first time in its history the Supreme Court Friday began conducting hearings through video conferencing after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the outbreak of coronavirus.
The apex court decided to go virtual, as a measure to discourage overcrowding by lawyers and litigants on its premises, especially in the backdrop of rising coronavirus cases in the country. Three benches held proceedings today. Justice D Y Chandrachud sat at 11 am to hear 11 urgent matters. The second bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose, sat at 1 pm to hear seven urgent matters. Finally, the last bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta began hearing at 3 pm, only two matters are listed before this bench.
The judges heard the cases from their residential offices, while the lawyers’ argued from their chamber at their residence through video conferencing. The apex court had given a link to the lawyers’ to access the video conferencing facility, and assured that urgent matters will be taken up. The Supreme Court is a place where lawyers and litigants from across the country visit, and following social distancing was a difficult task.
Initially, the Supreme Court decided to limit its functioning by reducing the regular benches from 15 to 5. It was an initiative to reduce the number of people and prevent overcrowding of people on the court complex, but after the alarming rise in coronavirus positive cases the top court decided to go completely virtual.
The apex court in a circular said since the prevailing situation demands that persons be discouraged from undertaking any kind of journey/travel, Supreme Court Registry is taking all steps necessary to conduct the hearings through remote video conferencing (VC) links. “Hence AORs/Parties-in-persons are advised to refrain from exercising the option of participating in the hearing through VC link facility available at the SC premises for the present, as that would entail unnecessary and avoidable travel through public spaces”, added the circular.
The apex court authorities said the AOR are requested not to share VC link with anybody. “Sharing of link will deactivate the original link shared with AOR on his e-mail. Only one link well be activated for VC”, said the court.
The circular said that for all matters involving extreme urgency, the AOR/Party-in-person is first required to file the petition/misc. application, preferably through the e-filing mode available on the SC website.
“Thereafter, and upon completion of all formalities as per rules governing such petition/miscellaneous application, the AOR/Party-in-person is permitted to file separately the signed and verified application containing a synopsis of extreme urgency not exceeding one page, at email@example.com, as per procedure detailed in para. 3 of the said Circular dated March 23,” said the circular.