Supreme Court To Hear Petition Seeking Continuation Of Virtual Hearings

The Supreme Court of India on Monday issued notices to the Bar Council of India, the Supreme Court Bar Association and others on a plea seeking continuation of virtual hearings in courts across the country.

Since March 2020, for most part, the constitutional courts in India have been functioning either exclusively through video conference or a hybrid format in which some parties argue in physical court and others through video conference.

In another case on Monday, a divison bench of the Delhi High Court observed that the end of the pandemic is no where in sight and the spending on virtual hearing infrastructure is a ‘’bullet the GNCTD (Delhi administration) will have to bite’’, reported

The petition before the apex court has come after the Uttarakhand High Court decided to shift to physical hearings last month. It’s been filed by All India Association of Jurists and a journalist working with the legal news portal LiveLaw.

‘Declare Access To Virtual Hearing A Fundamental Right’

The Registrar General of the Uttarakhand High Court has proscribed virtual hearing, saying no such requests will be entertained. A copy of this order has also been sent to all other high courts, the petitioners pointed out.

This will ring a death knell to the idea of virtual courts as an accessible and affordable means of justice in the country. The order will also result in an unreasonable distinction between lawyers from different parts of the country.

Lawyers residing in places accessible to courts will get an added advantage over the young lawyers who are unable to expand their connections and seek work, All India Association of Jurists argued.

Further, the association said, there are other high courts which haven’t explicitly barred virtual hearings but lawyers face difficulties in seeking access to them.

The petitioners have therefore sought a stay on the order of the Uttarakhand High Court and an interim direction to all high courts to allow access to lawyers through video conference hearings.

The petition came up for hearing before a bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao, Justice BR Gavai and Justice BV Nagarathna. Apart from the bar bodies, the bench has also sought responses from the central government and high courts of Uttarakhand, Bombay, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

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