The Supreme Court on Monday ordered that courts have to follow social distancing guidelines while conducting hearings, Bar and Bench reported.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde was hearing a suo motu case for conduct of court proceedings through videoconferencing.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh had written a letter to the top court on suggestions for working of courts during the lockdown. Attorney General KK Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and National Informatics Centre Director General Neeta Verma attended Monday’s hearing.

The court said all hearing “in congregation” must be suspended, and technology must instead be used in conduct of affairs. “It is necessary to ensure that court premises do not contribute to spread of virus,” the Supreme Court said.

The court invoked Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, which allows it to pass any decree necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it. The court said the Supreme Court itself as well as all High Courts must take steps to follow social distancing and public health guidelines.

The court, in its order, said High Courts have been authorised to determine modalities for the use of videoconferencing. “All courts to maintain helpline for grievances regarding video feed and line during and immediately after the hearing,” the court added.

The top court said courts must make appropriate arrangements for litigants who cannot access videoconferencing facilities. It said that videoconferencing will be used to conduct hearings until High Courts frame appropriate guidelines.

The Indian government has imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting March 25, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. So far, 4,067 cases of Covid-19 have been reported, and 109 patients have died, while 291 have recovered from the disease, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.