Trial courts should flexibly consider allowing accused to appear via video conference: Delhi High Court

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The Delhi High Court recently observed that if the trial of a case can proceed effectively with the accused remaining present through video-conference, the court should be flexible in considering such request for virtual appearance [Dr. S. Jaitley & Anr versus State (NCT Of Delhi)].

Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma said while it is important to uphold the principles of justice and fair trial, it is equally vital to give due consideration to factors like age and health conditions of the accused.

The Court made the observations while allowing a 75-year-old accused in a rape case to appear virtually through video conference before the trial court, with his lawyer present physically.

“In cases where appearing before the Court and joining the proceedings in a criminal trial through virtual modes do not compromise the integrity or fairness of the trial, the courts should be flexible in embracing modern technology and allowing virtual appearances,” Justice Sharma said.

The Court took note of the office order issued by the High Court on June 5 as per which district courts were directed to allow any of the parties or their counsel to appear through “hybrid/video-conferencing mode” during “any Court proceedings” without there being any prior request for it.

The Court was hearing a petition challenging a trial court order asking the accused to furnish a proper medical certificate in case he wishes to join the trial virtually.

The petition before the High Court prayed that the accused be permitted to virtually appear due to his health conditions and advancing age.

The High Court noted that the accused had not prayed for an exemption from his personal appearance before the trial court but only sought for an exemption from appearing physically in the court.

The High Court proceeded to allow the plea and added that the accused will not be required to furnish a medical certificate of illness on every date of the hearing since he has been permitted to appear through video conference.

The Court also said that if the trial court feels that the physical presence of the accused is essential on any date, an order for the same should be passed at least three days in advance.

The petitioner (accused) appeared in person.

Additional Standing Counsel (Criminal) Nandita Rao appeared for the State along with Advocate Amit Peswami.

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