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SC to explore feasibility of allowing lawyers to appear again in real courtrooms

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 02-06-2020 19:40 IST | Created: 02-06-2020 19:40 IST
SC to explore feasibility of allowing lawyers to appear again in real courtrooms

The Supreme Court, which has been holding virtual hearings since the lockdown on March 25, took first step on Tuesday to explore the feasibility of “physical appearance” of advocates in the court again as the country has entered the first phase of unlocking. The apex court has been holding courts through video conferencing for over two months and recently allowed lawyers’ chambers to be re-opened on odd-even basis during week days with certain safety measures.

“In view of the request received from various quarters and in order to explore the feasibility of physical appearance of the advocates in the court, while adhering to social distancing norms, it is hereby notified to all the advocates and party-in-person to give their joint consent with regard to willingness for physically appearing and arguing in the court,” the apex court said in its notice. It said the apex court, on receipt of consent from parties, consider the listing of the case for hearing before the real courtroom, “subject to availability of the bench and also subject to the order of the competent authority and social distancing norms”.

Lawyers will have to give their consent with regard to their willingness to appear before the real courtrooms on the e-mail address, 'consent.list@sci.nic.in', it said. The Bar Council of India and few other bar bodies have urged the top court to consider resumption of courtroom hearings on various grounds including that the present virtual court system was not working well in favour of many lawyers who either do not have the access to the technology or they are not well versed with it.

Earlier during the day, the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) urged Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and other apex court judges to resume physical court hearings from July, while pointing out the "practical difficulties" faced by lawyers in effectively presenting their cases through virtual hearings. In a letter addressed to the CJI and other judges of the Supreme Court, the SCAORA has said that as per the feedback received from the members of the Bar almost 95 per cent lawyers are "not comfortable with the virtual court hearings".

Meanwhile, the apex court Tuesday issued some additional helpline numbers for lawyers to resolve their problems related to “filing, re-filing, curing defects”, E-Filing, mentioning, listing and video conferencing or virtual courts. Prior to this, the apex court on May 17 had issued the fresh standard operating procedure (SoP) and had said that it will hear all cases via video and audio links between May 18 and June 19, and has scaled up its '1881' helpline to assist advocates and litigants in e-filing and virtual hearing.



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