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'Virtual Hearing As Good As Open Court Hearing' : Supreme Court On Plea To Resume Physical Functioning

12 Jan 2021 2:46 PM GMT
posters outside COVID19 patients homes supreme court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that Virtual hearings, though forced by the global pandemic, are "as good as Open Court Hearings".

A Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde clarified that the decision to convene Court proceedings via video conferencing is taken after extensive deliberations with medical experts.

"We have been following this (VC hearing) over one year due to medical reasons…We are reviewing the situation. The decisions are taken on the basis of medical experts," the CJI said while hearing a petition seeking resumption of physical hearings.

An advocate named Nilakshi Choudhury had moved the Top Court, urging it to restore open court hearings instead of virtual hearings.

"Is it not open court hearing?" the CJI asked the Petitioner.

The CJI pointed out that virtual hearings have enabled the judicial system to function even during the pandemic. Further averring the risks attached with resuming physical hearings during an ongoing pandemic, the CJI said,

"Do you know that many High Courts started physical hearing in the meantime and later closed down? For example, in Madras High Court, lawyers did not come for physical hearing."

The Solicitor General also supported the CJI, saying that virtual hearings are 'open Court hearings.

"The petitioner is forgetting that in a huge country like this, this court has not denied access to justice even for a day. This is salutary," the SG submitted.

The Supreme Court had been functioning in virtual mode since March last year with the onset of COVID19. In August, the top court decided to resume physical hearing on an experimental basis on certain court rooms for final hearing matters with the consent of advocates. Though a list of 1000 cases for physical hearing was published, it did not take off as only a handful of advocates consented to it.

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