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The Supreme Court will have limited functioning and restricted entry into its premises, in light of the advisory issued by the Union Health Ministry on the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
A meeting was called at the residence of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Thursday evening to consider measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It has now been decided that the Supreme Court will have limited functioning, restricted to urgent matters only. All benches may not assemble, the notification issued by the Apex Court states.
The notification further states that:
- no persons except the lawyers who are going to act in the matter, i.e. either for argument or for making oral submissions or to assist along with one litigant only, shall be permitted in the court room.
- Mentioning of matters will be made before the Mentioning Officer only
Yesterday's meeting was attended by Justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit, Attorney General for India KK Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representatives from the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association, as well as officials from the Union Health and Law Ministries. Another option deliberated upon was to limit the functioning of the Apex Court, as opposed to a complete closure.
After the meeting concluded, it was decided that a call on whether to extend the Holi break or have limited functioning at the Apex Court would be taken on Friday.
The Supreme Court was on a week-long break for Holi and was scheduled to reopen for regular functioning on March 16. During the week-long break, the Supreme Court had constituted a vacation bench to hear matters of urgent nature on two days - March 9 and 12.
On Wednesday, the spread of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. In India, Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act has been invoked to facilitate the advisories and directions of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to be made applicable across the country.
The provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 2005 have also been invoked to treat the spread of novel Coronavirus in India as a disaster.