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Allow physical hearings in ‘critical cases’, set-up kiosks and helplines to assist with e-hearings: GHCAA entreats Gujarat HC Chief Justice

The Gujarat High Courts Advocates’ Association has addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court with suggestions on the conduct of physical and virtual proceedings.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Gujarat High Courts Advocates’ Association (GHCAA) has addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court with suggestions on the conduct of physical and virtual proceedings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Members of the Bar have seen and faced many difficulties in these difficult times and tried to cope up with each one of them. Still there are many areas where improvement and co-ordination is required."
GHCAA

The Association’s letter, written to highlight areas for “improvement and co-ordination” in the modes of hearing presently employed, recommends a blend of physical and virtual hearings for cases.

A physical hearing should be allowed in “critical cases”, the Association urges, where the physical presence of parties is necessary. However, such a hearing may be allowed only after permission is sought for the same, the letter states.

The Association suggests further that Advocates may be given e-passes for the purpose and that only five advocates be allowed in a courtroom at a time. In such case, the adjoining courtroom may be left empty to allow advocates to wait their turn, the letter submits.

Only a limited number of matters should be listed per time-slot, the Association sets out in its communication. A weekly board may also be prepared beforehand to this end, it is proposed.

Additionally, the letter calls on the Court to issue guidelines restraining gatherings and unnecessary physical attendance in the court premises.

Recommending the resumption of physical filing, the Association suggests that segregated windows for filing be arranged at the Court, with access passes being issued only to the advocates concerned or their clerks.

Making a request for advocates to be allowed to use their chambers, the letter proposes the ‘restricted use’ of the chambers between 11 AM and 5 PM (everyday).

For cases filed online, the Association seeks that a filing number be generated and communicated to the advocate concerned through SMS and email within 24 hours.

A listing of filed ‘fresh’ matters within four days of filing is also sought by the Association. Training in this respect should also be imparted to advocates unfamiliar with the process, it is stated.

Further, the letter asks that the ‘removal of objections’ phase in filing, as well as the requirement for typed and certified copies, be dispensed with for the present.

With regard to the actual conduct of virtual hearings, the Association offers to help in setting up kiosks manned by IT experts throughout the court campus, which lawyers may approach for assistance with e-filing, and/or attending their case hearings virtually.

The Association entreats the Court to employ more office staff and IT experts to help with office matters and technical solutions. Apart from this, the letter advocates the setting-up of helpline numbers that advocates may use should they have queries, or require help.

Placing on record its preference for the drawing-up of a roster of judges so that matters are not allocated at "random”, the Association ends with a request to the Chief Justice to grant them an audience to explain their suggestions more fully.

Earlier this week, the Ahmedabad Bar Association had written to the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice pleading for the reopening of City Civil Courts given case pendency and the dire economic straits their lawyers are in.

The Delhi High Court Bar Association as well as the Supreme Court Bar have also made similar representations to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court Chief Justice, respectively.

Read the Association's Letter here:

Representation - GHCAA - dated July 25, 2020.pdf
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