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Only two Division Benches and four single Benches will sit from Monday at the Principal Bench to hear urgent matters through video conferencing from the judge's residence. Notifications to this effect were issued today.
The Madras High Court will restrict its functioning until the end of the month after a few High Court judges tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to sources, at least three judges at the Principal Bench of the High Court at Chennai were found COVID-19 positive, and the test results for more judges are awaited.
It is also indicated that the High Court judges did not contract the virus from within the High Court, but rather from outside sources.
In the wake of this development, an administrative meeting was held today wherein it was decided that the High Court will go back to a highly restricted functioning via video conferencing to hear urgent matters from next week until the end of the month.
Both the Principal and Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court will function on such a restricted basis until June 30, Bar & Bench was told.
Two Division Benches and a four Single Benches will sit from the next week at the Principal Bench. At the Madurai Bench, three single judges will sit.
Notably, only urgent matters will be taken up through video conferencing from the judge's residence, and subject to the permission of the respective Benches. Notifications to this effect were issued on Friday evening.
These developments come as the Madras High Court was gradually increasing its functioning with the end of the third phase of the national lockdown.
In May, the Court had increased the number of Benches sitting to hear cases through video conferencing.
Last week, it was notified that all Benches of the High Court will conduct virtual hearings, as opposed to the limited number of Benches that were hearing cases following the first lockdown until then.Through this notification, it was also intimated that judges may enter court premises to hear the matters from Court through video conferencing.
Further, both physical and virtual hearings were permitted at the Madurai Bench, with limitatons. It was notified that up to ten Benches may hear matters in open court. Where matters are being heard in open court, only five advocates were be permitted entry at a time in one court hall, including the state counsel.
The restrictions to be put in place now are likely to be reminiscent of the first phase of the COVID-19 lockdown in March.
The decision to go back to a highly restricted form of functioning will not affect the lower courts, nine of which were allowed last week to begin limited physical functioning on a trial basis.