Supreme Court SCBA moves SC against hybrid hearing SOPs

SCBA moves SC against hybrid hearing SOPs

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New Delhi, Mar 8 (ILNS) The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) today filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking to quash the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of March 5, 2021, issued by the Supreme Court registry, for hybrid physical hearing.

The association submitted that the SOP has been issued by the registry without consultation with the Bar, even though the bar is an equal stakeholder in the dispensation of the Justice Delivery System and suggestions by the Bar ought to have been taken into consideration.

“There is a general feeling in the bar that for the last few years, registry has been issuing circulars without taking the bar into confidence, even though the circulars issued directly affect the lawyers practicing before this Court,” said the plea.

The Association further said that in the meeting of the executive committee of SCBA with Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on March 1, 2021 regarding the physical/hybrid hearing, it was assured that the needful would be done by the registry expeditiously, taking into consideration the suggestions given by the executive committee. However, the SOP has been issued unilaterally by the Registry, it added.

The association submitted that the president of SCBA had written a letter dated March 2, 2021, regarding the resumption of physical hearing in the Supreme Court, however, the suggestions given have not been taken into consideration before issuing the SOP dated March 5, 2021 for hybrid physical hearing.

Moreover, even before the resumption of full physical hearing, a hybrid hearing was to be introduced as an interim measure. In that case, the hybrid hearing should have been for all days – from Monday to Friday. In the SOP, there is no provision for a hybrid hearing for matters listed on Monday and Friday, which are miscellaneous days, when primarily fresh matters are listed.

For around the last one year, the Supreme Court is working through virtual hearing and there is no provision for oral mentioning in the SOP dated March 5, 2021. As a result, lawyers would still not be able to make oral mentioning, which was a practice earlier before the COVID-19 pandemic and when the courts were having a physical hearing.

The only provision these days to get a matter listed is to send an email to the mentioning registrar, giving the urgency and as a result, so many urgent matters are not getting listed.

“Also, the present situation is that the registry officials can all enter the High-Security Zone, however, Lawyers’ entry to the High-Security Zone is kept suspended by SOP dated March 3, 2021, and only entry of Counsels to enter High-Security Zone would be through a daily ‘Special hearing pass,’ which will be issued by the Registry,” said the plea.

Referring to the recent notification of the Delhi High Court, the association submitted that even the Delhi High Court and the subordinate courts to Delhi High Court would start holding physical court as per regular timings on daily basis with effect from March 15, 2021. Most of the High Courts have also started holding physical courts or are in the process of starting physical courts, it added.

Further, it has been submitted that the last year has affected all, especially younger members of the bar and there were a lot of problems regarding muting and unmuting of Lawyers in virtual hearing for the past about one year. So, it is high time when every place has started working with the safety precautions of temperature check at entry points, wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing, that normalcy is restored in the apex court also at the earliest.

The petition was filed by advocate Rahul Kaushik and settled by Senior Advocate and SCBA president Vikas Singh. ILNS/SNG/JR

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