Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has assured that lawyers can attend the proceedings through their mobile phone if they do not have a laptop or desktop, according to the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).
The Chief Justice of India, however, requested the members of the bar that the mobile phone should be stationed and placed in such a manner that the face of the lawyer is visible and the voice is audible.
This came a day after the CJI expressed unhappiness over disruptions during virtual hearings due to the use of mobiles. Later, the top court registry, through a circular, asked the advocates and litigants to use a desktop or the laptop with a stable internet connection to join proceedings conducted through video conferencing.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association held a virtual meeting with the Chief Justice of India and four senior-most judges. "During the Couse of the meeting, the issue of usage of mobile phone for attending the court proceeding was discussed. The Chief Justice assured the Executive Committee that it is only an advisory for uninterrupted Court Proceeding and in case any lawyer does not have a Laptop/Desktop, he/she can attend the proceeding through the mobile phone," the SCBA said in a press statement.
However, the Chief Justice of India has requested the members of the bar that “in case of using the mobile phone for attending the court proceedings, the mobile phone shall be stationed and placed in such a manner that the face of the lawyer is visible and the voice is audible.” "The Judges have assured that the issue of muting/ unmuting of the lawyers will be looked into and necessary measures will be taken to streamline the system,” the statement read. The SCBA said that the CJI also assured that the oral mentioning is already available in all courts and in case any lawyer needs to mention any matter before any Bench, they may contact the court master in the morning.
A notification dated January 17 had advised the lawyers and litigants to join the virtual proceedings through a single device either a laptop or a desktop.
“All advocates, party-in-person must also join the VC hearings preferably using a headset enabled microphone and audio system...Please also close all background applications running on your devices for best VC experience,” the notification had read. The circular was issued after the hearing in as many as 10 cases was to be adjourned by the bench headed by the CJI as the lawyers were either inaudible or invisible or both.
The bench was irked over frequent disruptions as the lawyers or litigants were mostly joining the proceedings through phones using mobile data and even observed that it may have to ban participation through mobiles.
“Lawyers are appearing using their mobile phones and are not visible. We may have to ban this mobile business. Mr counsel, you are now practicing in the Supreme Court and appear regularly. Can't you afford to have a desktop to argue,” the CJI had observed in one of the cases.
During the hearing of another case, the bench took note of poor internet connectivity at the lawyer's end and said, “We have no energy to hear cases like this. Please devise a system by which we can hear you. Ten matters are over like this and we are shouting." The top court has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March 2020 due to the pandemic and has been relaxing or tightening the conditions from time to time keeping in mind the changing pandemic situation.
The top court, on January 2, took note of a sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country and decided to hear all matters in virtual mode, and from January 7, the benches are sitting at the residential offices of the judges.