7- Judge committee of the Supreme Court propose resumption of limited physical hearing on an experimental basis

    The seven-judge committee consisting of Justices NV Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohinton Fali Nariman, UU Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and L Nageswara Rao, proposed the resumption of physical hearings, but in a limited manner. The committee headed by Justice NV Ramana has communicated to the President of the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) that three of the larger courtrooms in the Supreme Court complex would be prepared strictly adhering to the “prescribed distancing and other norms” as per medical advice and this would be done so on an experimental basis and as a pilot-scheme.  

    The committee came to this decision on August 11, with the office bearers of the SCBA, the SCAORA, and the Bar Council of India (BCI) attending the meeting. The recommendations and suggestions received by them from advocate bodies were also taken into account and the committee has asked the concerned authorities to make the required arrangements within a week. The Judges are acting on the advice of medical experts and has instructed to follow proper social distancing while setting up of the desired infrastructure to ensure that the project may be resumed safely in 10 days, provided there are prior consent and willingness of all parties to argue in a physical hearing set-up.

    The Bar council official drew the attention towards the fact that the COVID-19 situation may remain more or less the same after two weeks and requested the Court consider resuming its physical functioning earlier so that solutions may be found to challenges likely to arise that much earlier. The Presidents of SCBA and SCAORA also recommended restarting the physical functioning of the Court from August 18, but the committee contended that experts have advised the commencement of physical hearings only after two weeks and upon a fresh review at that point.

    The committee said that while they were fully conscious and deeply worried about the difficulties faced by the lawyers and were anxious to gradually restore normalcy in physical functioning, they have to keep in mind the safety and health of lawyers, judges, litigants, and court staff. This pilot scheme sanctions only a limited number of cases slotted for a final hearing to be listed in the three courtrooms, which may be expanded in the future if the ground situation warrants. At present, all other matters listed from Monday to Friday would continue to be heard via video conferencing.