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The Madras Bar Association has written to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court highlighting its grievances with the virtual court proceedings adopted by the Court.
The Madras Bar Association (MBA) has written to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court AP Sahi highlighting various grievances raised with the working of the virtual court proceedings adopted by the Court amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter dated July 8 states that advocates are unable to effectively make submissions over video conferencing due to issues with connectivity and the inability to refer to original documents.
The MBA submits that the real victim of the process would be the litigant who has to depend on advocates whose quality of services is compromised by reason of the use of video conferencing.
Seeking redress, the MBA has requested that final hearings are not heard virtually.
Another grievance raised concerns the filing of cases. The Court’s directions require the filing of cases via email as well as a physical copy at the Court. Defects are also to be rectified and submitted in another physical copy, the Letter records.
Because the “processing” of physical copies of the files takes at least a day or more, the procedure is cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive, the letter states. Filing physical copies of case files could also potentially expose clients and advocate clerks to the coronavirus, the letter notes.
Moreover, lawyers who are not in the city will be unable to file their cases on time, the letter states.
In view of this, the MBA seeks that the filing of physical copies is dispensed with for the time being. Instead, an undertaking may be taken from the filing lawyer that they will file the physical copy once the COVID-19 restrictions end, the MBA suggests.
The Association recommends the following procedure for the e-filing of cases,
Acknowledging the receipt of cases over email to the concerned advocate’s mail address,
Telephoning the Advocate concerned to communicate defects in the case filed, or mailing her,
Passing the case without delay once defects are rectified,
Listing admission/fresh matters before court on the at least by the second day of filing,
Ensuring the regular functioning of “nodal” numbers,
Adjourned cases are taken up on the dates recorded without further mentioning by the advocate concerned,
Mentioning of cases before the Court may be permitted without circulating “memos” in advance.
The MBA also notes with concern that “passwords” to virtual court proceedings at the Principal Bench are complex and difficult to feed into the system, while those of the Madurai Bench are simpler. The Association has, therefore, requested the Chief Justice to direct that passwords to Principal Bench hearings are similarly simplified.
"The password in Principal Bench has small letter, capital letters and numbers all jumbled, while the password in Madurai is simple numerals, namely the date and the month like 0807", notes the letter.
The letter further asks that certified copies are made available on the furnishing of a copy of the application, as well as for the upload of Orders at the earliest, along with the date of upload.
Lastly, the Association requests that adjournments are “liberally” granted in view of issues such as lack of connectivity, non-availability of papers, inability to get instructions from the client. Such adjournments may be granted without “adverse orders” being passed in an advocate’s absence, it is urged.
The letter addressed to the Chief Justice has been signed off by Senior Advocate AR L Sundaresan, President of the Association.
The Letter had also requested the Chief Justice to permit advocates to enter their chambers after duly complying with safety protocols, so that case bundles, books, and computers may be used and accessed.
The MBA had raised concerns that many advocates were dependent on the High Court’s library for case research and study. With the closure of the Court Complex and law chambers, advocates have not been able to effectively argue cases especially those posted for final hearings, the letter states.
The same day, the High Court notified that Advocates would hereafter be permitted to enter the court premises and access their law chambers after a request for the same is given in the prescribed format.
The revised circular was appended to the cause list published by the High Court for hearings scheduled for July 9, Thursday.