Supreme Court hearing to go virtual from Friday as India witnesses third Covid wave

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Amid the sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday decided to hear all matters in virtual mode from Friday.

According to a circular issued by the apex court administration, with effect from January 7, the benches will sit at the residential offices.

“Only extremely urgent ‘mentioned’ matters, fresh matters, bail matters, matters involving stay, detention matters and fixed date matters will be listed before the courts w.e.f (with effect from) January 10, 2022 till further orders,” the circular said.

It said transfer petitions will be listed before the regular benches, instead of single-judge bench, till further orders.

The circular said till further orders, applications for exemption from surrendering will also be listed before the regular benches, instead of chamber judge.

While hearing a matter on Thursday, Chief Justice N V Ramana, who was heading a bench which also comprised Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said, unfortunately, again the problem of COVID-19 has started.

“Unfortunately, again the problem has started and we are also conscious of this…. It seems, we may not be able to hear cases through physical mode for the next four to six weeks,” the CJI said.

On January 2, the apex court had decided to conduct all hearings in virtual mode for two weeks starting from January 3, in view of the rising number of cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Supreme Court administration had issued a circular which stated that an earlier circular prescribing standard operating procedure (SOP) for physical hearing (hybrid hearing) will remain suspended for the time being.

“It is hereby notified for the information of the members of the bar, party-in-person and all concerned that keeping in view the rising number of cases of Omicron variant (COVID-19), the competent authority has been pleased to direct that modified Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) notified on October 7, 2021, for physical hearing (hybrid mode) will remain suspended for the present, and all hearings before the courts for a period of two weeks from and with effect from January 3, shall be through virtual mode only,” the circular had said.

On October 7 last year, it had issued the SOP stating matters that require lengthy hearings will be taken up on Wednesdays and Thursdays for physical hearing.

To avoid overcrowding on miscellaneous days like Mondays and Fridays, hearing of cases was done through virtual mode only, and on Tuesdays, it was through hybrid mode.

The top court has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

The October 7, 2021 SOP was issued after several bar bodies and lawyers had demanded that physical hearings should be resumed immediately as there was a fall in coronavirus cases at that time.

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