Synopsis: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) have reported that the Supreme Court ‘s seven-judge committee is seriously considering reopening the physical functioning of at least 2-3 benches of the court.
The Apex Court is expected to reopen its physical hearings from next week with respect to some of its benches, almost after six months of suspension.
Since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown on 25th March, to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Apex Court has held hearings by mode of video conferencing. The virtual hearings continued even after the restrictions were relaxed, as the virus threat remained.
In the last week of July, the 7-Judge bench, led by senior judge Justice NV Ramana, had testified to the bar members of their decision not to open the court for physical hearings. The committee then told that they would meet again after two weeks to discuss the matter.
As per Shivaji M Jadhav, Chairman of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), the committee of judges met with the bar members on 11st August, 2020. He said that the committee is adamant about starting at least 2-3 physical hearings from next week.
The panel has recently suggested that, on a trial basis, at least three courts should continue to hold physical hearings. That will be in parallel to the present-day virtual court hearings, which would mean that the court would still have the possibility of doing virtual hearing. The matters published before the lockdown from the final hearing list would be listed before the physical courts.
The registry of the apex court will, meanwhile, take the necessary precautionary measures to prepare the courts for physical functioning.
The panel of judges is invited to adhere its recommendations for appropriate action to chief justice SA Bobde. The Judges’ Committee will take the final call within a day or two.
On Tuesday, a Supreme Court seven-judge committee held a virtual meeting with the office members of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) and the Bar Council of India (BCI) in this regard.
The panel of seven judges comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Rohinton F Nariman, Justice UU Lalit, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice LN Rao make a definitive decision over the next few days.
SCAORA had asked for the physical court hearings to be reinstated from next month, saying that 95% of lawyers were not comfortable with virtual court hearings because of a lack of ccomputer knowledge.
The Bar Council of India (BCI), which governs India’s legal profession said that the people and activists are in the dark on what’s actually going on in the country’s various courts. SCBA also wanted actual trial proceedings to be reinstated.
The SCBA and SCAORA have told their representatives that they have advised the Judges’ Committee to resume the Supreme Court’s physical operation with stringent protective measures in effect from 18th August.
The Committee noted, however, that experts had recommended that physical hearings be resumed after two weeks and upon fresh review at that point.