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Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice DN Patel has constituted a Committee headed by Justice Hima Kohli to put in place a ‘Graded Action-Plan’ to meet the challenges in restoring the normal functioning of courts after the lockdown is lifted.
The High Court has written to the District & Sessions Judges in the city seeking their inputs, as well the inputs from the Bar Associations, on the plan.
In its letter, the High Court has noted that due to the suspension of functioning, at present, the hearing is limited to matters which are of extremely urgent nature or urgent nature.
Thus, give the negligible filing of fresh cases during the lockdown, it is expected that there would be a deluge of fresh cases on return to normalcy which might be difficult to handle.
It further stated that even after the lockdown is lifted, it might not be practicable to open the courts for everyone immediately and thus avoid turning it into a hotspot.
Therefore, acknowledging that normalcy is not likely to return overnight and there was a need to resume court functioning in a structured/phased manner, the letter has listed the following issues that ought to be addressed while preparing the Action Plan:
- Gradual expansion, in stages, of the nature of cases to be put in the “urgent” category for the purpose of hearing.
- Ensuring availability of proportionate court infrastructure during all these phases till restoration of complete normalcy.
- Making guidelines for restricting entry into courts and ensuring social distancing norms in the court complexes for all the stakeholders including Judges, court staff, lawyers and litigants.
- Preparing guidelines for restricting entry into lawyers’ chamber areas.
- Running of public utility services and canteen etc. in court complexes.
- Availability of infrared thermometer, masks, gloves, sanitizers. Installation of sensor-based devices, wherever possible, to ensure minimum hand-contact.
- Appropriate alternative to centralized air-conditioning system.
- Putting in place a mechanism for handling the deluge of fresh filing of cases once the suspension of functioning of Courts is withdrawn.
This may require initially restricting filing only in urgent cases or cases where limitation expiring. Filing of only soft copies may be allowed until safeguards for handling hard copies are put in place.
- Creation of well-equipped permanent VC Courts.
- Provision for e-issuance and e-service of court notices and summons, recording of evidence through video conferencing etc.
- Graded plan for resumption of work of registry for taking care of urgent administrative issues.
- Manner of resumption of training in Delhi Judicial Academy.
- Resumption of activities of the Delhi Legal Services Authority, Mediation Centre, Arbitration Centre.
- Creating a mixed model of ‘Virtual courts and actual courts’ and running court in shifts to ensure least footfall at any given point of time.
The High Court has requested the District & Sessions Judges to send in their suggestions through email within a week.
Read the Letter: