No more in-person hearings will be held in Supreme Court till further orders, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said today as the top court ordered sealing of lawyers' chambers amid rising number of coronavirus cases across India. The court is "working out a system so that lawyers can argue cases from home," he added.
"Soon links will be given to lawyers and they can sit wherever and argue the cases. We will soon announce how to download the links for adding video to call," Chief Justice SA Bobde said this morning, adding that the top court will "hold hearing in urgent matters via videoconferencing".
"Videoconferencing can be done by lawyers sitting in their own offices," he said.
All electronic passes given to the lawyers to enter the top court have been cancelled. Their chambers will be sealed at 5 pm tomorrow amid nationwide lockdown as the country battles highly contagious coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, which has spread to 140 countries, killed nearly 13,000 people worldwide. They can remove their files from the chambers by tomorrow evening.
In India, seven people have died, over 400 have got infected due to coronavirus.
Last week, the top court had said that "there will be virtual courts soon" after entry of lawyers, litigants and journalists in the courtroom was restricted. "Our intention is that courts should not become the place where the illness spreads," Justice DY Chandrachud said.
Earlier this month, the top court had put out a notification to inform that it "would hear only urgent cases" after taking note of government's March 5 advisory cautioning against mass gatherings.
"On reviewing the advisory issued by the Government of India and in view of the opinion of public health experts including medical professionals and also considering the safety and welfare of all the visitors, litigants, lawyers, court staff, security, maintenance and support staff, student interns and media professionals, the Competent Authority has been pleased to direct that the functioning of the courts shall be restricted to urgent matters with such number of benches as may be found appropriate," a notification by top court said.