SC issues SOPs for resumption of physical hearing from Wednesday

Published on Aug 29, 2021 11:45 PM IST

The Supreme Court issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for resuming physical hearing only for the final hearing of cases beginning September 1 for three days in a week, 17 months after the courts shut down in March 2020 and took up cases through a videoconferencing due to Covid-19 pandemic

SC issues SOPs for resumption of physical hearing from Wednesday
SC issues SOPs for resumption of physical hearing from Wednesday
ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi

The Supreme Court issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for resuming physical hearing only for the final hearing of cases beginning September 1 for three days in a week, 17 months after the courts shut down in March 2020 and took up cases through a videoconferencing due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed in this regard was made public on Sunday by the Supreme Court. The circular issued by Supreme Court Secretary-General on Friday said, “With a view to gradually facilitate resumption of physical hearing, the final hearing/regular matters listed on non-miscellaneous days may be heard in the physical mode (with hybrid option), as may be decided by the Hon’ble Bench, considering the number of parties in a matter as well as the limited capacity of the Court rooms. Further, any other matter may be heard in physical mode on such days, if Hon’ble Bench directs likewise.”

The option of physical hearing is being provided only for final hearing or regular matters on non-miscellaneous days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) while the matters listed on miscellaneous days (Mondays and Fridays) will strictly be through the videoconferencing app Vidyo.

In keeping with the Covid-19 protocol, the lawyers who intend to appear for physical hearing have to intimate the Registry of the Supreme Court in advance. “Wearing of mask, frequent use of hand sanitiser and maintaining physical distancing norms are mandatory for all entrants into the Supreme Court premises, including into the Courtrooms,” the SOP said.

Entry to lawyers/litigants will be through Special Entry passes issued by the Court after thermal check and other scanning devices to check infection status.

The physical hearing, at present, has been restricted to 20 persons at a given time and in the event, there are more than 20 persons opting for physical hearing in a case, the same shall invariably be listed for hearing through videoconferencing mode. The discretion of taking up the matter through physical or offline mode has been left to the choice of the lawyer and discretion of the bench hearing the matter, the circular specified.

The SOP stated, “Once hearing through physical mode is opted by the advocate-on-record/litigant appearing in person, hearing through video/tele-conferencing mode to the party concerned will not be facilitated.”

With the vaccination of lawyers progressing at a steady pace and both Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA), the two main associations of lawyers practising at the Supreme Court coming forward with demands to resume physical hearing of cases, the Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana agreed to consider the issue and held discussions with the two bar associations this month.

SCBA has not taken a formal decision yet on the SOP. An SCBA official confirmed that the association is yet to examine the SOP.

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