Take steps to enable safe physical court hearings when Supreme Court reopens after winter break: Vikas Singh writes to CJI Bobde

The need of the hour is to provide a secure environment so that there is no spread of the pandemic due to open court hearings, states the letter written by Senior Advocate Vikas Singh.
Take steps to enable safe physical court hearings when Supreme Court reopens after winter break: Vikas Singh writes to CJI Bobde
Vikas Singh

Senior Advocate and member of the Supreme Court Bar Association Vikas Singh has written to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde urging that steps be taken by the Supreme Court during the upcoming winter break so that there may be a possibility of open-court hearings when the top court reopens in January next year.

Lawyers, particularly juniors, have been the worst sufferers on account of the online justice dispensation system put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter highlights.

"While Senior Advocates are being engaged all over the country, junior lawyers are facing virtual starvation and some of them are relocating themselves or getting part-time businesses to survive the pandemic", Singh further raises concern.

The need of the hour is to provide a secure environment so that there is no spread of the pandemic due to open court hearing, it is further stated. Singh adds that while Supreme Court Judges and registry officials are already protected with the screens installed to separate them from the lawyers, the lawyers would be at risk when open-court hearings resume.

Therefore, urgent steps have to be taken to ensure that lawyers with co-morbidities or elderly lawyers are not compelled to appear in Court and so that they can easily participate in the hearing from their chamber or from the cubicles provided in the Supreme Court building. In this way, the normal functioning of the Court can be restored, it is stated.

In his letter, Singh recounts that he has been earnestly requesting since April 2020 that infrastructure be put in place at the Supreme Court so as to enable the functioning of a hybrid system, with both virtual and physical hearings.

To this end, Singh points out he had suggested the use of cubicles for lawyers attending online hearings from the court as well as media persons, which may be sanitised after each use. Also recommended as well as LAN cable connectivity in lawyers' chambers. In this way, lawyers can address the Court without there being overcrowding.

Singh notes that such measures would also ensure that only lawyers seeking to appear before the top court alone are able to appear before the Supreme Court.

To reduce the overcrowding during physical hearings, cause list should specify time-slots for all matters item-wise, it is recommended. This will ensure that lawyers attend their maters at the specific time slot only.

These measures will help in decongesting the courts, which is a problem the Supreme Court has been facing over the years and which causes severe inconvenience, especially to senior lawyers and lady advocates, Singh highlights.

A copy of the letter has also been marked to Justices NV Ramana, RF Nariman, UU Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, as well as the Supreme Court Secretary-General Sanjeen S Kalgaonkar.

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