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Long term measures have also been suggested to prepare for future eventualities.
Senior Advocate Mihir J Thakore, in consultation Senior Advocates SN Soparkar, PK Jani, PC Kavina and other peers, have put forward certain suggestions for the functioning of the Gujarat High Court amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also intimated that the proposal was viewed by the Advocate General, who was in substantial agreement with the same.
It is suggested at the outset that regular court hearings should not resume until May 31, adding that this is a tentative date, subject to modification depending on the situation.
Until then, it is suggested that instead of limited court functioning, all courts should function as per the sitting list arranged by the Chief Justice. However, it is added that matters only be taken up through video conferencing during this period.
It is urged that fresh filings and listing be permitted in all cases, albeit only through e-filing.
The note adds that in fresh matters where there is urgency, the advocate should file an urgency note explaining the urgency. In fresh matters where there is no urgency, the matter should be listed in due course
For the time being, its is suggested that the High Court could take up certain limited matters as detailed in the note, so that the High Court staff is not overburdened.
Notice and adjourned matters (where urgency is to be specified by way of separate notice to the registry) may be placed on the board for hearing both before single judge and division bench, it is suggested.
Moreover, a time slot can be provided for each matter considering the technical difficulties faced by lawyers in this period and to make sure that unnecessary adverse orders may not be passed in the absence of lawyers.
The note also suggests that only one third of High Court staff should be asked to come to Court. Additionally, the stenographers could take dictations on telephone or by joining the hearing through video conference.
Even after the court reopens a few precautions are suggested to be taken for at least eight weeks until the situation normalizes:
Persons entering the Court should not have had fever for the preceding 10 days and they should intimate the Court regarding the same;
No person to enter the premises without a mask and hand gloves. Arrangements can be made for providing gloves and masks at a price at the gate;
No clients should enter the premises, unless directed by a court’s order;
Preferably, the Government Pleader's office should take instructions only through email and law officers should not enter the office ordinarily unless essential;
Only 2 lawyers, 1 peon and 1 junior/ briefing lawyer should be allowed to enter the court room;
Lifts should be used only by lawyers’ / lawyers’ staff carrying files and lawyers of age 70 years or above;
Routes should be marked for exit and entry to all floors and court rooms;
No person should enter the compound 15 mins prior to their specified time;
No barroom, clerk room, tea post, canteen should be kept open;
Hand sanitizers should be placed at appropriate places in court premises and its use should be made compulsory before entering courtroom.
Apart from the above stated, certain steps have been suggested to be taken in the long run which include:
Upgrade the technology so as to make virtual hearing effective;
All cK Janpurt rooms should facilitate virtual hearing ;
All vacation court hearings should be made virtual as a matter of norm.
All filing should be by way of both hard copies and e-filing, so as to be prepared for future eventualities;
All judges and lawyers should be provided training for virtual hearings and e-filings;
NIC should be asked to convert all matters in soft copies;
The system for service adopted during the pandemic period should be made a norm where ever possible.
Read the Note here: