New Delhi Sept 6(ILNS): The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Bar Council of India and the Supreme Court Bar Association after impleading them as a party in a writ petition filed by the All India Association of Jurists, seeking to declare virtual court hearing as a Fundamental Right.
The bench comprised of Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice B.R. Gavai, and Justice B.V. Nagarathna heard Senior Advocate Siddhartha Luthra on behalf of the petitioner and denied to stay the notification issued by the Uttarakhand High Court.
The apex court granted four weeks’ time to Mukesh K. Giri, Counsel of respondent – High Court of Uttrakhand, to file their response. The Court granted four weeks to BCI and SCBA also, to file their response.
In his opening arguments, Luthra submitted that this matter pertains to restriction on rights of the litigants as a different set of directions have been issued by the Courts.
He said, “There are three sets of courts:
1. Completely prohibited the Hybrid hearing like Uttarakhand High Court which I really not appreciate.
2. Allowing hybrid hearing on paper but effectively, if a lawyer wants to argue they say if the court sits, you have to attend physically.
3. Allowed hybrid hearing”
Raising questions on the contention made by Luthra, Justice Rao said, “We’re hoping that there should be normalcy. If everything goes normal, should the petitioners still insist on hybrid hearing?”
Luthra answered that the option of a Hybrid hearing should not be done away with as this will save cost on the lawyers to travel and also reduce the carbon imprint. It’ll also be a relief for the litigants.
Justice Rao then asked Luthra about the status of litigants for 70 years?
Replying to the question, the Senior Advocate said that electronic reforms were introduced in 2013.
Justice Gavai intervened and said that recently in the facilitation function organized by BCI, the Chairman had said that lawyers have been suffering due to this online mode of hearing.
To this, Luthra said, “Yes, that’s because cases are not being taken up.”
During the hearing, Justice Rao said, “Luthra, we’re missing you in court. Think about the young lawyers! How will young lawyers learn? It is good in court here, there is eye-to-eye contact and the matter in which you argue is also effective. You know the difference between online courts and offline courts. Soon, Artificial Intelligence will take over and some countries have even resorted to AI for decision-making. But we’ve said clearly that the same can’t be used in Indian Courts.”
The Senior Advocate replied, “We are not opposing the physical hearing. All we are saying is that hybrid hearing should continue.
Replying to Justice Rao over petitioners making contentions on how will prohibition over hybrid hearing infringe their Fundamental Right, Luthra said, “Access to Justice is FR your Lordship.”
He asserted that hybrid hearing should continue and the High Courts should not resort only to physical hearing./ILNS/DS/KR/SNG