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The new arrangements are to continue for a three week period, subject to any orders or modifications that may be issued before then.
The functioning of the Madras High Court and lower courts in Tamil Nadu has been further restricted, following the recent declaration of Chennai as one of the 75 Indian districts where lockdowns can be imposed to combat the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
A circular issued today intimates that the following measures would be implemented, when it comes to the functioning of the High Court:
The Court shall have Two Division Benches dealing with all urgent fresh criminal and civil matters separately.
There shall be Five Single Benches - three on the criminal side and two on the civil side. The Constitution and jurisdiction of these Benches will be indicated separately on the cause list.
Lawyers have been requested not to operate from their Chambers and to refrain from inviting litigants inside unless absolutely imperative.
Lawyers are requested to limit filings as far as possible to only extremely urgent matters for a three week period, on the permission being granted by the concerned Court.
Only extremely urgent cases are expected to be taken up, cases already listed within the next three weeks, if urgent, may be mentioned before the Benches to be constituted. If the mention is accepted, the matter would be listed at the discretion of the Bench.
The Benches can be approached for the extension of interim orders which are bound to expire in the next three weeks. The Bench may pass appropriate orders to avoid inconvenience.
Where the limitation period in the matter is likely to expire, the same may be accepted by the Registry and placed before the appropriate Bench when the Court resumes normal functioning. On a related note, the Supreme Court today extended the limitation period for all matters where the limitation period is likely to run out during the pandemic period.
Court staff would work on rotation basis. An exception on this count is made for Protocol and Maintenance staff on account of the duties they perform.
Personal staff of the judges are required to make themselves available subject to directions given by the judges.
Entry restrictions to the High Court that were earlier notified would continue.
These arrangements are to continue for a three week period, subject to any orders or modifications that may be issued before then. Similar precautionary measures are also expected to be taken up by lower courts in Tamil Nadu for the next three weeks.
A separate advisory issued today has urged the lower courts to do the needful to restrict the movement of people and confine functioning only with respect to extremely urgent matters.
In this regard, the courts have also been urged to generally grant adjournments in cases for the next three weeks, unless it is extremely urgent that the case be taken up on the request of the counsel or the court's discretion.
This would allow lawyers and litigants to refrain from taking unnecessary travel to the courts, specially in view of the travel restrictions already imposed in Tamil Nadu, the advisory notes.
As with the High Court, directions have been issued to makes sure that the staff in lower courts also work on a rotation basis, to ensure that they are only present as required for the minimum functioning of the court.
[Read the Notification regarding the Benches constituted]