NEW DELHI: Covid-19 appears to have injected some impetus for innovation in the highly traditional Supreme Court, which on Monday will experiment conducting hearing without the presence of lawyers by using video-conferencing facility in what is known in information technology circles as a ‘virtual court’.
The virtual court will be functional in the largest courtroom, the CJI’s courtroom or court room No1, for two cases. On the bench will be CJI SA Bobde and Justice DY Chandrachud with video monitors on their table to hear arguments from lawyers without the advocates or litigants being present inside the courtroom.
While the judges will sit on the dais in the courtroom on the first floor of the SC building, the lawyers will be facing cameras in the old court masters’ room nearly 100 metres away on the same floor. They too will have monitors before them to watch and listen to the judges. Three cases are listed before the bench of CJI Bobde and Justice Chandrachud on Monday. The causelist of the SC for Monday says, “The advocates (for litigants in the cases listed for hearing) are requested to address the court from monitoring room No FW-56 (old court master wing).”
Apart from the virtual court, there will be three regular benches which will take up 19 matters for hearing and deliver two judgments, a far cry from the routine when there would be 15-16 benches taking up about 800 cases on Mondays.
Among the important cases listed for hearing are the sum motu proceedings drawn up by the SC to protect prisoners from Covid-19, for which it had sought action plans from every state’s chief secretary, the home secretary and the DGP (Prisons) on preparations and steps to set up isolation wards within jails and other medical help an inmate would require if he/she was detected with symptoms of Covid-19.
In addition, Justice Surya Kant will take up seven cases to ascertain their status and decide whether they required urgent listing. However, there is a clear direction that no lawyer has to be present before Justice Kant for this purpose. On the virtual court, a senior SC official told TOI, “The CJI and Justice Chandrachud decided to start the process on an experimental basis. We are planning to provide feed of the proceedings at the press lounge for journalists to access proceedings. A studio has been set up where lawyers, without being in each other’s proximity, will address judges in the courtroom. The judges and lawyers can see and hear each other through a screen put before each person participating in the proceedings. Three cases are listed on a trial basis.”
A full court meeting of all 33 judges of the SC is also scheduled for Monday to review situation.