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In an order passed on Thursday, the Karnataka High Court directed the Registrar General to register a suo motu PIL to address the various legal and technical issues that may arise before the District and Trial Courts from June 1. (Karnataka High Court Suo motu PIL)
The High Court had earlier notified the limited physical functioning of courts in the state at the start of next month.
The order passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj notes that,
"Several such issues will arise which will have to be dealt with especially when it will take a long time to resume normal functioning of all the District and Trial Courts in the State."
The Court has also cited various examples of issues that could arise with the re-opening of the courts.
Some such instances, the Court noted, would be judicial magistrates' insistence on personal presence at the time of filing of complaints under Section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), or personal presence of parties in matrimonial matters, or in private complaints such as cheque bouncing cases.
It was noted that regular Lok Adalat sessions could not be conducted owing to the COVID-19 lockdown. Therefore, the issue of whether Lok Adalats can be conducted via video conferencing or not also has to be looked into, the Court opined.
On this issue, the Bench went on to state,
"Though confidentiality is attached to the mediation/conciliation meetings, the issue is whether by adopting all possible safety measures, mediation/conciliation meetings can be held through video conferencing hearing."
While passing the order, the Court also clarified that it is permissible to record statements of accused under Sections 164 and 313 of CrPC by video conferencing.
Moreover, it was also noted that a Single Judge of the High Court had already laid down a procedure for acceptance of surety through video conferencing hearing.
The Bench has directed the Registry to implead the State of Karnataka, the Union of India, the Karnataka State Bar Council and the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority as parties to the petition for the time being.
The Court also requested Senior Advocates Uday Holla and CV Nagesh to appear as Amicus Curiae for assisting the Court on the issue. Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa has been asked to assist the Court on behalf of the state government.
The matter will be next heard on June 1.