The Delhi High Court on Saturday issued an office order stating that from March 15 all its judges would hold physical hearing of cases. The high court said the existing system under which only 11 benches – two division benches of two judges each and nine single-judge benches – hear matters via the physical mode would continue till March 12.
The office order issued by Registrar General Manoj Jain said, "The Full Court has been pleased to order that the existing system of hearing the matters in this court shall continue up to March 12, 2021. "It has further been ordered that all benches of this court shall hold physical courts, on a daily basis, with effect from March 15, 2021 and shall continue to take up the matters as per the existing arrangement of listing." The order also said that in exceptional cases, the high court might permit any of the parties and/or their lawyers to join the proceedings through video conferencing, subject to the availability of requisite infrastructure. At present, 11 benches of the high court hold physical courts everyday on rotation basis and some of them also hold hybrid proceedings, wherein lawyers have the option to attend the hearing via video conference instead of appearing in person.
The office order also said that all pending routine or non-urgent matters listed before it from February 22 to March 26 would be adjourned en bloc to dates between April 15 and May 20. It also urged advocates, litigants and other visitors to the high court to "strictly adhere to norms of social distancing and other COVID-19 related guidelines". The high court on January 14 had decided to increase the number of judges who would be hearing cases physically from January 18 onwards "in view of the decline in the intensity of spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the national capital". Prior to January 18, only two to three benches were holding physical courts daily on a rotation basis. The high court had, on March 25, 2020 restricted its functioning as well as that of the district courts till April 14, 2020. It was subsequently extended from time to time till January 16, 2021.
In between, on August 27, 2020, the high court decided to partially resume physical hearing of matters from September 1, 2020 by two division benches and three single-judge benches on a rotation basis. The number of benches was later scaled down to one division bench and two single-judge benches in view of the rise in COVID-19 cases in Delhi and a majority of the lawyers indicating their preference for virtual hearing of cases.