7 Judge Committee of Supreme Court rules out possibility of physical hearing in SC for time being

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A seven judge committee of Apex Court has apprised the bar leaders of its decision to not open the apex court for physical hearings “for the time being” and would meet them again after two weeks to reconsider the issue.

The apex court, since March 25, has been holding courts through video conferencing due to a nationwide lockdown and even after the restrictions were relaxed, it has decided to continue with the hearing through virtual courts.

The panel headed by the senior-most judge after the CJI, justice N V Ramana, met Bar Council Chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra, Supreme Court Bar Association President Dushyant Dave and Shivaji Jadhav, the president of Supreme Court Advocates on Records Association, Friday to apprise them of its decision to not resume physical hearings.

“At the outset, Secretary General (of the Supreme Court) read out the minutes of the meeting of the committee (of judges) which had taken place earlier in which it was decided, inter-alia, not to open the Supreme Court for physical hearings for the time being as per advice of medical experts.

“It was also decided by their lordships to meet the representatives of the Bar after two weeks and then to restart the working of the court in a phased manner,” Dave wrote to lawyers about the meeting.

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Dave and Jadhav told the judges’ panel that they were clear about the starting of the physical hearings as soon as possible, while continuing with virtual court hearings with improved system for limited types of matters.

“We both impressed upon the Hon’ble Judges the need to restart in the interests of Justice, the litigants, the lawyers and their clerks and assured that without in any manner compromising with the well being of all stakeholders such working can be resumed,” Dave said in the letter.

The committee assured that the secretary general and registrars will start a dialogue to categorise matters for final hearing and related issues, he said.

Justices Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohington Nariman, U U Lalit, A M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and L N Rao are part of the committee set up by the CJI to look into the issue of resumption of physical hearing in the top court again.

Recently, a bench headed by the CJI had ruled out the possibility of conducting physical hearings in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and had said a seven-judge panel would review the situation.

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The CJI’s observation came when a lawyer sought resumption of physical court hearing to deal with a batch of petitions relating to grant of quota in promotions to SC/ST employees in various states.

In June, the committee of judges had not agreed to the demands of bar bodies including SCBA to resume regular courtroom hearings for the time being and would review the functioning of the Supreme Court later.

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