COVID Coverage: Court’s Functioning (29th August, 2021)
On August 29th 2021 it was announced that physical hearings would resume in the Supreme Court for a limited number of cases.
Court Resumes Physical Hearings
On August 29th, Ramana CJI announced that the Supreme Court would resume physical hearings for limited cases. Advocates will have the option to appear virtually. The decision to resume hearings is prompted by requests from the Bar Association. The Court aims to gradually resume full physical functioning.
All hearings on miscellaneous days (On Mondays and Fridays, the Court only hears fresh matters to decide if they will be admitted) will continue to happen virtually. On non-miscellaneous days, final hearings and regular matters will be listed for physical hearing by the Court. In cases where the number of parties exceeds the physical capacity of the courtroom, the Court will ordinarily list the matter for virtual hearing. In some exceptional situations, the Court may list cases with a large number of parties for physical hearing too. It will release specific COVID protocols for such courtrooms as and when required.
Matters listed for physical hearing will be communicated by the Court through a weekly list.
The Advocates-on-Record (AORs) in such cases must indicate their choice of physical or virtual hearing to the Court within 24 hours of the list being published.
For every party in a case being heard physically, one AOR, one arguing counsel, one junior and one clerk will be allowed to enter the ‘High Security Zone’ of the Court. The High Security Zone houses the SC courtrooms. It can only be accessed with the Court’s authorization. All those seeking to enter the Court for physical hearings must apply to the Court Registry for special hearing passes. These passes will be granted for the specific case the applicant is involved with. The applicant must be authorised by the AOR involved in the case.
The Court has directed that it will be mandatory to wear masks and observe social distancing for all those entering the High Security Zone. Courtrooms will have to be emptied for fifteen minutes between hearings for thorough sanitisation.
In the meantime, video conferencing (VC) will continue for all cases not being heard physically.