The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will begin limited physical hearings in about two weeks on an “experimental basis”, Bar and Bench reported. A seven-judge committee led by Justice NV Ramana has asked court officials to ready three big courtrooms within a week while strictly adhering to the “prescribed distancing and other norms”.
The court had been holding hearings through video conferencing since March 25 because of the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected over 27 lakh people in the country so far.
The Supreme Court’s Registry has written to the president of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association, to inform them of the seven-judge panel’s decision to resume hearings as a “pilot scheme”. The committee, which was constituted on July 22, arrived at the decision following a meeting of the judges on August 11, it said.
However, only specific matters will be taken up for physical hearing, while miscellaneous matters will continue to be heard virtually, the letter stated.
The communication added that matters would be listed in the courts 10 days after the courtrooms are ready to operate, but only with the prior consent and willingness of all parties involved to participate in a physical hearing. The committee said that as of now, the pilot scheme would only allow a limited number of cases slotted for final hearing to be listed in the three courtrooms, which may be expanded in the future if the “ground situation warrants”.
“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,” the letter added.
The August 11 meeting of committee led by Ramana, the senior-most judge of the top court, was also attended by the office bearers of the Supreme Court Bar Association, the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association, and the Bar Council of India.
After the meeting the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association President Shivaji M Jadhav had said the judges committee was “seriously considering to start at least two to three physical courts from the next week.”
The seven-judge committee is comprised of Justices NV Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohinton Fali Nariman, UU Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and L Nageswara Rao.