NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday took two unprecedented steps to meet the extraordinary situation arising from lockdown in several states to restrict the spread of Covid-19 — converting itself into a virtual court and indefinitely extending the statutory deadline for filing of appeals/petitions/suits in the apex court, high courts, tribunals and trial courts.
The experimental ‘virtual court’ conducted by a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice D Y Chandrachud for three cases on Monday was termed “very successful” by SC sources, who said the picture quality of the feed and the voices of arguing lawyers were “crystal clear”.
While the CJI and Justice Chandrachud sat on the dais in an empty courtroom facing a camera and a big TV screen, the lawyers were similarly placed in a different room nearly 100 metres away. “We are considering adopting this practice to hear cases for the rest of the period of lockdown due to Covid-19. Lawyers need not come to court at all and we will devise a method to facilitate them arguing from their chambers or offices,” a source said.
The bench also took suo motu note of the “situation arising out of the challenge faced by the country on account of Covid-19 and resultant difficulties that may be faced by litigants across the country in filing their petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under special laws.
The SC directed that its order be sent to all HCs for being communicated to all subordinate courts and tribunals and sought responses from registrars general in four weeks.
A full court meeting scheduled for Monday among all judges was converted into a tele-conference to devise a methodology to hear urgent matters through video-conferencing.