[COVID-19] Bombay High Court extends life of interim orders till September 30, 2021

The Court said that the situation of uncertainties and upcoming festivities could pose a threat to people and interest of justice would be served if the protective interim orders are extended till September 30, 2021.
[COVID-19] Bombay High Court extends life of interim orders till September 30, 2021
Justice KK Tated, CJ Dipankar Datta, Justices AA Sayed and PB Varale

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday extended the life of interim orders passed by the High Court as well as subordinate courts and tribunals in Maharashtra and Goa till September 30, 2021 (Court on its own motion - Suo-Motu PIL 1 of 2021).

The Full Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justices AA Sayed, KK Tated and PB Varale passed the order today on a suo motu petition initiated on the extension of protection to those who are unable to access justice because of the restricted functioning of the courts due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The High Court directed that orders pertaining to eviction, demolition or dispossession passed by any lower courts or authorities after April 9 will be kept in abeyance one last time as per the conditions of its previous order of April 16, 2021.

The Bench observed that by the last order, the interim protection was extended till August 31, 2021 and not beyond that.

"Such an order was made on the premise that the number of active COVID cases were on the decline and the State was returning to normalcy," the order stated.

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Dr. Uday Warunjikar appearing for an advocate association submitted that advocates and litigants continue to be restricted from travelling by local trains and till such time those restrictions are not removed, access to justice would be difficult.

He prayed that the interim protection order should continue for at least 4 more weeks.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted that the interim relief may not be extended for 4 weeks, but instead could be extended for a fortnight considering it would serve as a warning to all litigants that "if they wish to enforce their rights, they can start approaching the court".

However, the Court opined that considering the "situation of uncertainties and upcoming festivities around this time" which could "pose a threat to humankind", the interest of justice would sufficiently be served if the protective interim orders are extended till end of this month, i.e September 30, 2021.

The Bench also referred to the meeting held on Monday by the Administrative Committee of High Court with the members of the bar associations, wherein they were briefed by the Additional Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Dr. Rahul Pandit from the Supreme Court appointed Task Force to manage COVID.

Dr. Pandit apprised in the meeting that at least till the end of April 2022, the nation may not get rid of the ill-effects of COVID.

"According to Dr. Pandit, the third wave is knocking at the doors and unless COVID appropriate behaviour is not maintained, the State would again face imminent danger," the Bench recorded.

Considering such submission of Dr. Pandit, the administrative committee decided to continue the restrictive functioning of courts.

While the Principal Bench at Mumbai decided to hold physical hearings 4 days a week and one day through video conference hearing, the Bench at Nagpur and Aurangabad and High Court at Goa have switched to complete physical hearing.

The Full Bench had on April 16, 2021 directed that interim orders passed by itself as well as subordinate courts and tribunals that fall under its jurisdiction shall stand extended till May 7, 2021, which was then extended till August 31, 2021.

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