New Delhi, Aug 31 : The Supreme Court has issued standard operating procedures (SOP) for the proposed experimental physical hearing of cases on the request of various lawyers’ bodies.
Since March 25, when the Covid lockdown was in place, the top court has been taking up matters through video conferencing.
However, no date has been put out in the SOPs for the resumption of physical hearing.
The SOP issued by the apex court’s Secretary General Sanjeev S. Kalgaonkar said: “On an experimental basis, and as a pilot scheme, physical hearing of matters may initially commence in three (3) courtrooms; eventually, number of matters or the number of courtrooms may be increased or reduced, as the situation may warrant or permit.”
Only such number of lawyers or parties will be permitted to appear inside the courtrooms, as does not exceed the working capacity of the courts as determined under physical distancing norms, the SOPs said.
The top court administration said until further orders, entry into the High Security Zone through proximity cards/long term passes shall be kept suspended.
“If in a matter, the number of parties is more, then one Advocate on Record (AOR) and one arguing counsel per party will be allowed entry; one registered clerk per party, as may be chosen by the AOR, shall be allowed entry to carry paper-books/journals etc. of the counsel upto the courtrooms,” it said.
“Multiple sets of one chair and table are being placed inside the court-rooms, in the areas demarcated for Ld. Advocates/Parties-in-Person, and it shall be incumbent upon the users to maintain minimum prescribed physical distancing norms between each set, which should not be removed from their positions,” added the two-page SOP.
Earlier this month, a seven-judge committee, headed by Justice N.V. Ramana, took note of requests made by various lawyers’ associations to resume physical hearing of the cases on an experimental basis while adhering to safety guidelines, and on August 19, asked court officials to prepare three big courtrooms to begin physical hearings within a week.
Justices Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohington Nariman, U.U. Lalit, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and L.N. Rao were part of the committee set up by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde to look into the issue connected with resumption of physical hearings.
The Supreme Court, in a communication to the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association President, had said: “On an experimental basis, and as a pilot scheme, three amongst the bigger courtrooms may be got prepared, within a week’s time through concerned agencies, strictly adhering to the prescribed distancing and other norms and as per medical advice with regard to physical infrastructure required in these courtrooms.”
The top court had said that a limited number of cases will be heard as a pilot scheme and miscellaneous matters will be heard through videoconferencing.
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