Restrictions on court hearings lawful: SC-THE HINDU-07-04-2020
The Supreme Court on Monday deemed all restrictions imposed on people from entering, attending or taking part in court hearings as lawful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. .
‘Matter of duty’:
The court invoked its extraordinary Constitutional powers under Article 142 to step away from the convention of open court hearings. Judiciary would have to improvise and continue to bank heavily on “videoconferencing technologies” in the wake of this “unprecedented and extraordinary outbreak of a pandemic”. “Access to justice is fundamental to preserve the rule of law in the democracy envisaged by the Constitution of India. Open court hearings would mean a congregation of large number of people.
In the past few days, the SC and the High Courts had stopped open court hearings. Cases were heard via videoconferencing to ensure social distancing. The Supreme Court premises was completely shutdown. The CJI Bench assembled on Monday to suo motu streamline the videoconferencing guidelines for courts.
In a series of directions, the apex court allowed the High Courts to decide the modalities for the temporary transition to the use of videoconferencing technologies in their respective States. District courts in each State would adopt the mode of videoconferencing prescribed by the respective High Courts. The courts should make available videoconferencing facility for litigants who do not have it or appoint an amicus curiae. Until appropriate rules are framed by the High Courts, videoconferencing should be employed for hearing arguments.
“In no case shall evidence be recorded without the mutual consent of both the parties by videoconferencing.