SC likely to begin physical hearings from next week

The Supreme Court of India is likely to begin physical hearings in some of its benches from next week, nearly after six months of suspension. 

The apex court has been holding hearings through video conferencing since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown on March 25 to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

The virtual hearings continued even after the restrictions were relaxed, as the virus threat remained. 

Key Highlights 

A panel comprising 7 SC judges has recommended holding physical hearings as early as next week in at least 2-3 of the 15 benches with additional safety measures.

The 7-judge committee, headed by senior-most judge Justice NV Ramana had in the last week of July apprised the bar leaders of its decision to not open the court for physical hearings for the time being.  The committee had then assured the bar leaders that they will meet them again and reconsider the issue after two weeks.

The judges' committee met the bar leaders on August 11, 2020, as per Shivaji M Jadhav, President of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA). Jadhav said that the committee is seriously considering to start at least 2-3 physical courts from the next week. 

The panel reportedly suggested that at least three courts may start holding physical hearings on a trial basis. This will be in addition to the virtual court hearings being held currently. 

This would mean that people would have the option to do virtual hearing as well. The matters from the final hearing list published before the lockdown would be listed before the physical courts.

The apex court's registry will be, in the meantime, taking the required precautionary steps to prepare the courts for physical functioning.

The judges' panel is expected to submit its recommendations to Chief Justice SA Bobde for necessary action. The final decision would be taken by the judges' committee within a day or two.

SC committee

The 7-judge SC panel comprises of Justices NV Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman, UU Lalit, A M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and LN Rao. The committee was set up by the Chief Justice of India to look into the issue of resumption of physical hearings in the top court again. 

The committee had not agreed to the demands of bar bodies including SCBA to resume physical hearing in June and July. 

Background

The 7-judge panel had earlier met senior leaders such as Bar Council Chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra to discuss the matter concerning the resumption of physical hearings in the Supreme Court. The bar leaders have since long been demanding for hearings to be held physically as soon as possible while at the same time continuing with virtual court hearings with an improved system for limited types of matters.

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