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The Supreme Court today decided to restrict physical entry to the Court premises in the wake of the lockdown imposed in Delhi as a measure to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Supreme Court has also decided to suspend all proximity cards and to seal lawyers' chambers. The chambers will be shut at 5PM on Tuesday to allow the lawyers to collect their essential briefs and documents.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde also declared that the Court will take up urgent matters for hearing via video conferencing. Counsel appearing in matters will be allowed to join the video conference from their own offices.
CJI SA Bobde today told Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Dushyant Dave that the the idea to suspend proximity cards for lawyers was being mulled over by the Judges of the Court. Dave, however, requested the Court to consider the request for declaring a vacation for four weeks.
The Court pointed out difficulty in declaring vacation owing to some matters being barred by limitation period. In cases where appeals come to Supreme Court and a limitation period is stipulated for the same in statutes, a shutdown of the Court will have a bearing, CJI pointed out.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a suggestion that the Court may pass an order for a deemed extension of the limitation period in these circumstances. CJI Bobde said that perhaps the filing of such appeals may be allowed even though the Court would remain shut. Dave then pointed out that people are afraid to come to Court even for filing of matters.
On the aspect of crowd control in courts when social distancing is required to be observed, Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi requested that lawyers be allowed to address the Court from their own offices. If they are required to address the Court from a separate room within the Court premises, that would still require all the lawyers in the case to congregate in one place, he said.
SG Mehta, agreeing with the suggestion, said that platforms such as Skype may be used for hearings through video conferencing.
CJI Bobde informed everyone present that Justice DY Chandrachud, who is the head of the Supreme Court E-Committee, is considering the aspect of video conferencing. A decision on the modalities of the same will be taken later today.
Having said this, the Court said that the SCBA should authorise specific lawyers who may enter Court premises and said that all the proximity cards will stand suspended and lawyers chambers would be sealed at 5PM on Tuesday, March 24.