NEW DELHI: In a big relief to some 15 lakh lawyers reeling under financial hardship due to limited functioning of judiciary only through video conferencing during the
for the last five months, the Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared set to resume
limited physical hearing
of cases on a trial basis after two weeks while continuing with virtual courts.
A seven-judge committee comprising Justices N V Ramana, Arun Mishra, R F Nariman, U U Lalit, A M Khanwilkar,
D Y Chandrachud
and L Nageswara Rao consulted
top medical experts
and interacted with bar leaders
Manan Kumar Mishra
, Dushyant Dave and S Jadhav before zeroing in on a hybrid system that would include opening of three courts with necessary precautions for physical hearing of long-pending matters, while continuing to adjudicate fresh matters through video conferencing.
Sources in the SC and bar bodies said medical experts were sceptical of immediate resumption of physical hearing and cautioned against it. Sources said they advised the judges to go slow, given the chances of a spike in Covid-19 cases with migrant workers returning to their workplaces in cities. The SC attracts litigants from across India and many of them come from Maharashtra and southern states where the pandemic still remains a big concern.
The experts also said since most judges were over 60 and carried co-morbidities, it would be inadvisable to rush to a full scale resumption of physical hearing in courts. But Dave and Jadhav insisted on resumption of physical hearings by next week, even though Mishra told the committee that it would be better to take a calibrated, low-risk approach for a slow and gradual resumption of physical hearing of cases keeping in mind the safety of lawyers, litigants, court staff and judges.
The committee was informed that to maintain safe distance between two courtrooms, one courtroom each in the three wings could be identified for physical hearing purposes. It was told that it could take up to three days to get each courtroom ready with proper sanitisation, ventilation, installation of exhaust fans and glass partitions.
After taking into consideration the views of all concerned, the committee recommended to CJI S A Bobde that limited physical hearing, in three courtrooms, could resume only for old matters requiring long hearing. However, only a limited number of lawyers at a time would be permitted in a courtroom given the strict adherence to social distancing norms. The committee said the CJI could fix a date for resumption of physical hearing after two weeks on trial basis after the courtrooms were ready for the purpose.