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Covid-19 Lockdown: Supreme Court to Resume Physical Hearings in 2 Weeks on 'Experimental Basis'

The Supreme Court of India. (Image Credit: PTI)

The Supreme Court of India. (Image Credit: PTI)

After a hiatus of more than four months, the court rooms will open to accommodate a limited number of lawyers and a specific category of cases.

The Supreme Court has decided to resume physical court hearings after around a fortnight on "an experimental basis".

After a hiatus of more than four months, the court rooms will open to accommodate a limited number of lawyers and a specific category of cases.

In a letter to the President of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAoRA), the Additional Registrar concerned informed that the decision to resume hearings as a "pilot scheme" has been taken following the meeting of the committee of judges on August 11.

Three big courtrooms will be prepared within a week, with strict adherence to social distancing norms and as per medical advice with regard to the physical infrastructure required.

"Subject to the decision of the competent authority, it has been suggested that a limited number of cases be listed for physical hearings on an experimental basis after 10 days in such readied court rooms, upon consent and willingness in writing of all parties to such matters/cases," said the letter.

It also specified that only a limited number of cases, which are at the stage of final hearings, would be heard in physical courts and their numbers may be gradually increased if the ground situation so warrants and permits.

The communication clarified that apart from final hearing matters, all other fresh and miscellaneous cases will continue to be heard through video-conferencing only.

"Considering the vulnerability, in medical terms, of some stakeholders and their family members to the Covid-19 infection, particularly in the absence of a preventive vaccine or medicine/procedure to mitigate, cure or overcome the disease resulting from such infections, it has been recommended that requests from stakeholders for exemption from participation in any such physical hearing inside the courtrooms may be considered favourably," said the letter.

The Supreme Court has been conducting cases only through video-conferencing since March 23. A statement on Wednesday said upon completion of 100 days of virtual court proceedings, 1,021 benches were constituted that could dispose of 4,300 cases. More than 50,000 lawyers appeared through video-conferencing.

The SCAoRA has been demanding the resumption of physical courts, citing the plight of lawyers and their unfinished work, apart from the fact that lawyers cannot effectively argue in virtual courts.

The Supreme Court Bar Association has said that it would advise resumption of physical court hearings only after a propitious medical advice is obtained, and not in haste.