Irked with overcrowding in the courtroom, a senior judge of Bombay High Court on Monday warned of not taking up any case for hearing if social distancing norms were not followed.
A division bench headed by Justice S S Shinde, which hears criminal cases, after seeing the crowd in his courtroom, asked staff to tell police officers, advocates and litigants to wait outside.
“Don’t crowd in court….or else we will discharge the entire board and not hear any case,” Justice Shinde said.
He said overcrowding and not maintaining social distancing norms were in breach of the standard operating procedure laid down by HC at the time of resumption of physical hearing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Standard operating procedure and social distancing is for everyone’s health and safety. We (judges) are sitting at a distance,” Justice Shinde said.
He referred to the incident of 60 advocates testing positive for Covid-19 at Amravati district in Maharashtra.
“Fortunately, we have not had any untoward incident here. We are going in the right direction and we don’t want to go back to hearing cases virtually,” Justice Shinde said. He asked everyone, including lawyers, to wear masks at all times.
Justice Gautam Patel of HC had last month issued a notice complaining of overcrowding in court and had directed everyone to strictly adhere to safety norms.
Last week, Justice Prithviraj Chavan had refused to hear a case as the lawyer appearing in the matter had removed his mask.
Amid the outbreak and lockdown, the HC had suspended physical hearings in April last year and began conducting hearings for urgent matters through video conferencing system.
It subsequently began a combination of virtual and physical hearings, and in December last year, resumed physical hearing for almost all cases.
Currently, all courts in HC function at full capacity, hearing cases physically from Monday to Thursday.
On Fridays, some courts conduct virtual hearings for cases where the lawyers or parties are not based in Mumbai, or, if there is a specific request for such hearings.