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Use of local trains to commute for physical hearings: Bombay HC issues directions for lawyers to apply for permits on experimental basis

The arrangement will operate on an experimental basis and only for lawyers seeking to appear physically before the Principal Bench of the High Court for two weeks from September 18 to October 7.

Meera Emmanuel

The Principal Bench of the Bombay High Court today issued detailed directions on how lawyers may obtain permission for local train travel to physically appear for hearings before the four Benches of the High Court hearing matters physically amid the COVID-19 pandemic (Chirag Chanani & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors)

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni today placed on record the State's proposal on how lawyers may be allowed to apply for permission to travel by local trains for physical hearings at the High Court.

The same was also agreed to by Additional Solicitor General Anil C Singh on behalf of the Central Government.

Accepting the proposed mechanism, the Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni issued the following directions regarding steps to be taken by advocates for necessary permits to travel by local trains for physically attending High Court hearings:

  • The concerned advocate, who intends to appear for a physical hearing before the benches of the High Court at Mumbai, shall apply to the designated registrar the High Court seeking a day's pass relating to the particular date only for a matter listed for physical hearing before one of the four benches of the High Court.

  • The designated registrar, after confirming the correctness of the claim made in the lawyer's application, would send a certification to the advocate via email.

  • The certification issued by the registrar should not, in any manner whatsoever, be misused by advocates. This direction was issued in view of the Centre's apprehension that lawyers permitted to use the local trains may share the permits with other lawyers not permitted.

  • The Court clarified that in the event, there is any misuse, it would be open to the State Bar Council to take appropriate action.

  • Upon receipt of the certification from the designated registrar, the advocate is to approach the Railways Authority to obtain an appropriate pass or QR code or document for travel or ticket. This shall permit the lawyer to use the local train service for the particular day for which the case is listed, as certified by the registrar.

  • The Railways Authority, after verifying the purpose, will issue the travel document/approval/ ticket etc. permitting local train services by the applicant advocate for the particular day.

  • This arrangement would be available to the advocate applicants only and those advocates who satisfy the above conditions. It would be available only to such lawyers who want to appear personally before the Bombay High Court.

  • The arrangement will operate on an experimental basis for two weeks from September 18. The arrangement will continue until October 7. The matter will be heard further on October 6.

During the hearing today, the Court was also urged to consider the plight of lower court lawyers and junior lawyers who have to approach the lower courts. The Bench, however, urged that some patience may be shown to see how the experimental process pans out for the next two weeks.

Since it is being carried out on an experimental basis, the Bench said that it would only be confined to High Court lawyers seeking to physically appear before the Benches at Mumbai for now.

After two weeks' time, depending on how the experiment fares, the Court can look into expanding the measures to lawyers seeking to physically appear before the lower courts as well, the Bench assured.

Apart from the Government counsels, Advocate Dr Uday Warinjukar and Advocates Ashok Sarogi, Ashley Cusher and Parth Zaveri also made suggestions today in the matter.

The Court will take up the matter next on October 6.

Chirag Chanani & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors - September 15 Bombay HC order.pdf
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