All Delhi courts to resume in-person hearings from March 15
The Delhi high court on Tuesday said from March 15, all courts, including the subordinate judiciary, would resume in-person hearings as the number of Covid-19 cases in the national capital was relatively fewer these days. The current system of hybrid hearings (virtual and in-person) will be allowed only in exceptional cases, the high court said.
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said virtual hearings cannot become the norm and that it is only an exception. The judges said the request for hybrid hearings would be entertained only if they clearly set out the exceptional circumstances and also their geographical location.
The court also noted that several services, including schools, colleges, gyms and cinema halls, have been open for some time now and it is high time that courts also resume in-person hearings.
“A beginning has to be made and the fear that has set in into the minds of people should not be a reason,” the bench said.
“While making the requests, parties should clearly set out the exceptional circumstance/case and also indicate their geographic location from where they would be joining (the video conferencing hearing). Mere absence of the counsel or party within the NCT of Delhi may not be a sufficient ground for making a request for VC hearing,” the bench said.
The court directions came on a plea seeking to defer commencement of in-person hearings by all judges from March 15, till the time all advocates are vaccinated against Covid-19.
“As to what would constitute an exceptional circumstance would have to be left to the discretion of the concerned judge/ judges before whom the request is made. However, to put to rest any uncertainty, it would be appropriate that such a request is made at least one working day in advance and the decision be communicated by the court staff to the parties well in advance so that they are aware whether their request is accepted or not,” the bench said.
The bench also directed the administrative authorities of the high court to provide adequate infrastructure and install computer systems to support hybrid proceedings in all its 25 courtrooms where regular in-person hearings would resume from March 15.
Anticipating surge in footfall in the court premises, the bench also suggested the high court administration and district courts to see the feasibility of bringing two cause lists -- one for the pre-lunch and another for the post-lunch session to limit the number of people.
It asked the Delhi government to file an affidavit on steps takento provide infrastructure to subordinate courts for hybrid hearings and listed the matter for further hearing to March 24.