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Given the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, and the decision taken under the advisory caution against mass gathering by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 5 March, the functioning of the Supreme Court will be restricted only to urgent matters from Monday i.e. 16 March.

On 13 March, a notification was issued by the Secretary-General of Supreme Court, Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar which stated that “No persons except for the lawyers who are going to act in the matter shall be permitted in the court and the mentioning of matters will be done only before the mentioning officers.”

Subsequently, six division benches have been notified that will assemble in the Apex Court from 16 March which includes:

  • Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah
  • Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran
  • Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari
  • Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta
  • Justices Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat
  • Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sanjiv Khanna

Taking cognizance of the World Health Organization declaring coronavirus as a global pandemic, a meeting was called upon 13 March, to consider whether the apex court should extend the vacation in light of COVID-19 panic. The meeting comprised of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit, Attorney General of India KK Venugopal and the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta.

Two options were put up before the judges and top law officers: either to extend the ongoing Holi vacation or have limited the functioning of the court, which does not include hearing of regular matters involving lengthy hearings.

“The advisory issued by the Government of India and in view of the opinion of public health experts including medical professionals and also considering the safety and welfare of all the visitors, litigants, lawyers, court staff, security, maintenance and support staff, student interns and media professionals, the Competent Authority has been pleased to direct that the functioning of the courts from Monday, 16 March 2020 shall be restricted to urgent matters with such number of Benches as may be found appropriate,” observed the notification. However, the notification does not specify for how long the restrictions would continue.

Subsequently, the Delhi High Court has also issued a notification on 13 March, stating that “In view of the outbreak of Coronavirus, Hon’ble the Chief Justice and Hon’ble Judges of this Court have been pleased to direct that the functioning of this Court from 16.03.2020 shall be restricted to urgent matters and that the court master shall give dates in routine matters before the Court assembles.”

Meanwhile, India has reportedly invoked Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act to deal with coronavirus. On 10 March, as per the travel advisory issued by the government of India in response to coronavirus outbreak, all visas, and e-visas issued to nationals of France, Germany, and Spain who have not entered India stand suspended with immediate effect. It has also suspended most visas for foreigners until 15 April.


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