Bombay Bar Council (BBA) and 452 other lawyers wrote to Chief Justice, Dipankar Datta seeking directions, allowing lawyers to be given the option to choose between physical and virtual hearing.
In the request, the appellants have made a special request to the CJ Dipankar Dutta to modify the recent order of the court. On Friday, the court has declared that all benches of the High Court will conduct the physical hearings on an experimental basis from December 1, 2020, to January 10, 2021.
The lawyers, senior and junior, have approached the Chief Justice to allow them to have the freedom to choose between the physical and virtual hearings. The appellants have approached the CJ citing the spike in Covid-19 cases in the country. They have also mentioned the risk to which not only the lawyers and court staff but the families including elderly parents will also be exposed.
“Many other High courts in India have tested the waters with the experimental reopening of Courts, only to shut down again, due to the spread of the virus within courts,” the letter stated while mentioning the situation of High Courts of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Allahabad, Patna, Delhi, and Chennai.
Calling it a one-step forward and two-step backward move, they stated that it will only reinforce the message that the highly contagious nature of this disease makes the resumption of physical hearings almost impossible to regulate.
The appellants have also cited the Delhi High Court order where it was ruled that physical hearings may be attempted, but should be optional and cannot be forced upon.
The representation made by the lawyer’s body mentioned various points explaining the chances of increasing risk of Covid-19 during the physical hearings in court including
- For lawyers who are dependent on public transport, the resumption of physical hearings is arduous as boarding for trains is only at 11 am.
- Most lawyers have gone back to their native places. If they are all forced to come back, there will be an influx of people in Mumbai.
- Everyone will be sharing common amenities of the courtroom for the whole day. Hence, the sanitation of those amenities will be difficult.
The representation also states that a similar hybrid system of virtual and online hearings can be applied to the other courts as well. BBA has also sought technical help to make it a seamless process for all the lawyers.
They have also urged the CJ to continue the virtual hearing system till December 31 2020.