The Kerala High Court extended the life of all interim orders passed by all courts and tribunals falling under the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court till August 27, 2021, in view of the upcoming vacation for Onam festival.
A full bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justices Shaji P Chaly and CT Ravikumar disposed of the suo motu petition but considering the difficulties lawyers may have to face if the stay on orders is vacated before the vacation, held that during the period from August 24 to August 27, parties are at liberty to seek vacation of interim order already granted.
"Vacation starts from August 14, 2021 and the High Court reopens on August 24, 2021. As rightly pointed out, during vacation, unless and until leave is granted to move any urgent application, other matters are not normally listed. If stay is vacated from today, litigants may have to file applications on the reopening day, for extension of any interim order passed in a particular case, before this Court/District Courts/Tribunals as the case may be. Besides, there will be other usual filing as well. Having regard to the difficulties expressed, it is desirable to extend the general orders, issued in this suo motu writ petition upto August 27, 2021," the Court ordered.
During the hearing on Friday, Advocate General Gopalakrishna Kurup K submitted that the latest Government Order (GO) dated August 4 supersedes all the preceding GOs issued by the State regarding lockdown restrictions and relaxations. He further suggested that the interim orders, granted by the Court periodically, can be extended till reopening day, August 24.
Advocate Thomas Abraham, President of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association, submitted that during the vacation period, filing is permitted only for few days and regular matters will not be taken up except with the leave of the court.
He raised the apprehension that, if the stay is vacated now, litigants and their counsel would find it difficult to move urgent applications on the reopening day. Therefore, he suggested that the interim orders passed in the instant suo motu petition be extended further. According to him, that would also lessen the burden on the Registry.
The Court noted that as per the latest GO, the State seems to have amended its COVID restriction strategy based on the concerns regarding the effect of prolonged closure of establishments on livelihood have been considered in entirety. Accordingly, the State has identified that a focused strategy based on micro-containment as well as access control to indoor spaces of public gathering will be the best way forward.
Accordingly, the following significant relaxations have been made
Shops, markets, banks, offices, financial institutions, factories, industrial establishments, open tourist spaces and other establishments can function from Monday to Saturday;
All establishments in the public sector, including government offices, PSUs, companies, autonomous organizations, commissions etc. would function from Monday to Friday;
All the transport vehicles (public and private) are permitted with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols;
All competitive, recruitment and university examinations/sports trials are also permitted.
The Court observed that all Government/allied activities have been permitted by way of the GO and transportation was restored as well.
In view of this, the Court opined that there will not be any difficulty for litigants or lawyers to approach the courts/tribunals to vindicate their rights.
"Earlier, while initiating the suo motu proceedings, we took note of the difficulty of the litigants and their lawyers, and for the reasons stated, issued general direction. In the light of the present scenario, the difficulty is no more in existence. Though we are aware that there is an increase in Covid-19 cases, nevertheless that would not cause any hindrance to the litigants or their learned counsel to approach the appropriate courts/tribunal for vindication of their rights," the Court said.
However, seeing merit in the concerns put forth by Abraham, it allowed extension of interim orders until three days after the Court opens after vacation in order to reduce the burden on litigants, lawyers and the registry.