The Delhi high court on Monday warned that it will call for records of the state government’s expenditure on advertisements and subsidies from April 2020 if a proposal to set up upgraded infrastructure at lower courts and quasi judicial bodies is turned down.
Noting that “access to justice is the right of every citizen”, a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said that hearings over video conferencing may continue for an indefinite period as Covid-19 is not showing any signs of subsiding.
“We don’t want it to shuttle like a shuttlecock… It is not for luxury, it is absolutely essential… hearing of cases through online mode may have to be resorted to for an indefinite time before we are able to resume full physical functioning of courts,” the court said.
“If the Delhi government turns down the proposal, it shall place before the court a complete statement of expenses incurred from April 2020 on subsidies and public advertisements,” the court added.
On Monday, Delhi government counsel, Shadan Farasat, told the court that a proposal had been floated by the law department for consideration, approval and implementation of a hybrid hearing project in all the Delhi district courts, with a preliminary assessment estimating the cost at ₹227 crore.
The bench said that the Delhi government cannot be seen as dithering in providing infrastructure and other facilities for functioning of trial courts through hybrid mode, adding that “this is a bullet which they have to bite”.
The court was hearing two pleas by lawyers Anil Kumar Hajelay and Manashwy Jha seeking various prayers, including to conduct hybrid hearings in district courts on physical hearing days in view of Covid.
On Monday, Farasat submitted that the proposal was forwarded to the Finance minister Manish Sisodia who has sent it back for discussion.