Supreme Court Resumes Physical Hearings In Limited Capacity After 16 Months

The Supreme Court also issued a standard operating procedure for the physical hearings, which will be held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court resumed physical hearings today after remaining off-limits for lawyers since March 2020. The physical hearings will take place only on two days of the week and normal functioning is expected to resume post-Diwali.

On Thursday, the court witnessed long queues of lawyers. The Supreme Court also issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the physical hearings, which will be held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Virtual hearings will take place on Monday and Friday and hybrid mode (both physical court as well as video conferencing) hearings will take place on Tuesday.

Several safety measures and Covid restrictions have been put in place in the courtrooms. Judges, lawyers and other court staff are now separated by glass partitions. The hearings are taking place through speakers and microphones.

There are small windows for passing documents, which are being handed over to judges only after complete sanitisation. Only lawyers who are appearing for a case will be allowed inside the courtroom and will have to leave the courtroom as soon as their matter is over.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde told NDTV, "I am very happy to be back physically. We missed the camaraderie with other lawyers and there is no substitute for actual face time with the judges. The worst is behind us and a major chunk of the population has been vaccinated. With adequate safety and masking full physical hearings should continue and there should be proper ventilation in the courtrooms."

He added that physical hearings will also help younger lawyers. "When there were only virtual hearings the entire focus was on the senior lawyer talking and younger lawyers were taken out of the equation. Physical hearings will remedy the situation. Younger lawyers are the base of the pyramid and their support also matters," he said.

Nikhil Jain, Treasurer of SCAORA (Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association) told NDTV, "I am happy that physical hearings have resumed and I hope that after Diwali it goes into full physical hearing mode."

Several judges expressed their happiness on seeing lawyers inside the courtroom. Chief Justice NV Ramana said that he will consider holding physical hearings at a larger scale post-Diwali.

Justice DY Chadrachud today told lawyers, "We are happy to see you all. You cannot imagine how lonely it is to see the screen every morning."

However, some senior lawyers like Kapil Sibal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta today met the CJI and sought for hybrid mode of hearing to continue.

Sibal had yesterday told CJI NV Ramana that some cases have records which are 50 to 60 volumes large and allowing just one briefing lawyer inside the courtroom would affect proper legal representation of the matter.