The Delhi High Court today decided to restrict its functioning as well as that of the district courts to urgent matters only till June 30, in view of the prevalent situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Administrative and General Supervision Committee of the High Court, headed by Chief Justice DN Patel, decided that the restriction would be in place till June 30 and the urgent matters would continue to be heard by video conferencing.
"...the functioning of the High Court of Delhi shall continue to remain suspended till June 30," the administrative order said.
The order said presently, on account of suspended functioning of the court, urgent matters of all kinds are being taken up through video conferencing by all the benches of the High Court as per the Roster.
"However, subject to the contingency of the work, any matter can be assigned to any bench by the order of the Chief Justice notwithstanding the roster assigned to such a bench," it added.
The mentioning of urgent matters is being done through the web link which is available from 9 am to 10:30 am on all working days.
The order said it has been resolved that all the benches should also endeavour to take up 20 oldest "regular/final category matters" pending on their respective boards through video conferencing mode.
It said all the cases listed in the high court, including before the registrars and joint registrars, from June 15 to June 30 have been adjourned to corresponding dates between August 6 to 25 respectively.
The matters listed in the district courts during this period will also be adjourned and the information will be uploaded on their website, the order said.
"It has further been resolved that with effect from June 16, all the subordinate courts, shall take up urgent cases (except where evidence is to be recorded) of their respective courts through video conferencing mode," it said.
Earlier, less benches were set up to hear the urgent matters through video conferencing.
To ensure that more urgent matters are taken up, it was decided that from May 22 all the judges of the high court would sit every day to take up important cases via videoconferencing.
There are presently seven division benches and 18 single-judge benches in the high court.
Earlier, the High Court had on March 25 restricted its function as well as that of the district courts till April 14. It was subsequently extended to May 3, May 17, May 23, May 31 and June 14.
Delhi High Court Chief Justice DN Patel at an event on Saturday also said the restricted functioning of the courts, due to COVID-19 pandemic, would be extended "for some time more".
"During this COVID pandemic, of course we are not opening the court and this decision we are taking unanimously. We are extending (present form of functioning) for some time more and we are hopeful that physical opening of court will be done after installing some more facilities at our court," Justice Patel said while inaugurating the Delhi High Court''s online e-filing system.
"Tentatively, I am saying that, for 15 days this system (of functioning) will continue from home, but subject to certain changes to be done," he said.
Explaining the advantages of the new filing system, he said it would help litigants and lawyers to file their cases and/or related documents from the comfort of their homes and offices or any corner of the world without having to come to the court premises.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the high court for inaugurating the new system, Justice Patel said that after switching to the paperless format of working, "I am now thinking how I was working on paper when everything is available on a screen before me".
"There are so many advantages (of paperless format), that now I do not want to switch over to the (older) paper format," he said.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher, head of the high court''s IT committee which worked to put in place this new system, said the new e-filing mechanism was cost effective, environment friendly (being paperless) and convenient.
Justice Shakdher, in his keynote address, referred to the high court's journey from "the rudimentary stage" of using bulky paper files in 2008 to the start of e-court endeavour in 2009 and the rapid transformation that took place between 2013 to 2015 when three jurisdictions -- company law, taxation and arbitration -- became completely paperless.
He also laid out the other advantages of the new filing system, like not having to meet the 12.00 pm and 4.00 pm deadlines to file a case, and said that the new facility would be accessible all 24 hours of every day of the week.
"Because of COVID, we were challenged in terms of our capacity to hear matters and our IT team has stood up to the challenge and upscaled our IT capacity so much so that all judges of the high court are conducting matters via video conferencing," he said.
Justice Shakdher further said,"The whole purpose of the project at the end of the day is to increase access and not diminish it".
For those who do not have the infrastructure for online e-filing, e-sewa kendras (desks) have been set up in various districts to help lawyers and litigants to e-file their case and/or related documents, Justice Shakdher said.