Delhi HC resumes physical hearings on rotational basis; five benches take up over fifty cases

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The high court has been conducting hearings through video conferencing since 24 March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and reportedly heard over 13,000 matters between April and July,

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday resumed physical hearings after a gap of more than five months, with five benches hearing over fifty cases, said reports.

The high court has been conducting hearings through video conferencing since 24 March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and reportedly heard over 13,000 matters between April and July,

On Tuesday, two division benches — one of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan and other of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar — and three single judge benches — Justices Jayant Nath, VK Rao and Yogesh Khanna — heard cases in their courtrooms while other judges and benches continued proceedings via video conferencing.

According to Bar&Benchthe two division benches heard 11 cases till 2.30 pm while the single benches took up a total of 48 cases.

According to news agency PTI, the physical hearings conducted on Tuesday received a mixed response. Staff of the respective courts of the Chief Justice, Justice Nath and Justice Rao said that the lawyers in several matters indicated their preference for hearings via video conferencing. They also urged that their cases be listed on dates when virtual hearings would be held.

However, in the separate courts of Justice Sanghi and Justice Khanna all the matters listed for physical hearing were conducted without a hitch. None of the parties involved sought dates for virtual hearings, the staff told the news agency.

One-fourth of the seven district courts in the National Capital also started functioning in a restricted manner with limited attendance, said a Hindustan Times report.

The court had on 27 August issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for holding physical courts. As per the SOP, the high court will be open on five days a week from 1 September.

The physical hearings will be conducted by different benches on a rotational basis. While the same set of division benches and judges as on Tuesday will hold court on 2 September, on the next two days — Thursday and Friday — it will be another set of division benches and judges.

The remaining judges and division benches will conduct hearings via video conference.

The entry in the court blocks for the purpose of attending physical hearings will be restricted to only one advocate per litigant whose case is listed that day and any senior counsel engaged by the advocate. In case a litigant is pursuing a case without any legal assistance, the party may attend the hearing in person.

Besides, registered clerks for delivering bulky case files to advocates and standing or nominated counsel for any of the party or entity whose cases are listed for physical hearing that day will be allowed.

Juniors, interns or law students associated with the advocate concerned, relative of any litigant and non-registered clerks will not be allowed entry in the court blocks, the SOP, issued by the office of Registrar General Manoj Jain, has said.

All those permitted entry will have to mandatorily wear a mask at all times and undergo thermal screening at the designated entry points. They will also have to sanitise their hands at the time of entry, follow social and physical distancing of six feet and adhere to all directions and guidelines issued by the government in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to ensure social distancing, seats in each courtroom have been limited to the bare minimum, according to the SOPs. The entry time to any court block will also be regulated as per the time slots mentioned in the cause list for different batches of cases.

The SOP also stated that each batch shall consist of 10 cases and no person shall be permitted entry inside the court blocks before the designated time-slot.

“Entry of the first batch to the particular floor of the court block shall take place at 10.00 am. The second batch shall be permitted entry to a designated waiting space inside the court block at 11.15 am and the third batch at 12.15 pm. No person shall be permitted entry inside the court blocks before the designated time slot,” the SOP said.

The number of cases to be heard in a single sitting have been restricted to 25.

The SOP also states that medical facilities including an ambulance with infrastructure to tackle COVID-19 emergencies will be stationed at the premises during work hours. The SOP also provides for an isolation room in the high court dispensary.

With inputs from PTI

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