Supreme Court on Tuesday disposed of the petition filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association against the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in connection to the hybrid system of hearings in the apex court.
The division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Subhash Reddy noted that little can be done on the judicial side and the matter should be tended to by the administrative side of the court.
“The matter relates to the administrative working of the Court. Issues have to be ironed out at the Bar. We are of the opinion that on the judicial side, little can be done on this aspect,” the apex court stated.
However, the senior advocate and SCBA President Vikas Singh objected to the order and stated, “We have no choice but to take a agitational path.”
The counsels appearing for various parties asked the court to reconsider the order. Senior Advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani submitted that SCBA president was not the part of the consultations that led to the finalisation of Standard Operating Procedure.
Senior counsel Geeta Luthra referred to the lack of facilities for hybrid hearings in trial courts.
To which, Justice Kaul replied, “Let these issues be decided on the administrative side. You cannot find solutions to everything on the judicial side.”
SCBA president Vikas Singh expressed his disagreement with the decision and left the hearing after the court pronounced the order. He reappeared in court and said, “If Your Lordships feel that the Supreme Court is above the law, we will have to take the law in our own hand.”
The petition filed by SCBA stated, “the SOP for hybrid physical hearings was issued by the Registry of the Supreme Court without consultation with the Bar even though Bar is an equal stakeholder in the justice delivery system.”
The plea also contended that if virtual hearings are allowed to continue permanently, it will disturb the level playing field in the profession by allowing lawyers to argue from territories where the members of SCBA do not have opportunity to argue due to lack of reciprocity.
Besides the SCBA plea, the court also heard a plea filed by All India Association of Jurists, a Chennai-based organisation of lawyers. They prayed that the option given to lawyers/litigants to appear before the SC through video conference should be continued as “a matter of right” even after the Court resumes physical hearing.
The petition of All India Association of Jurists supported the hybrid system of SOP issued by the top court. It sought the continuance of the same so that lawyers and litigants from far-off places will be able to appear before the Supreme Court without coming to Delhi.