7-judge SC committee to look into possible resumption of physical hearings

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With the demand for resumption of physical functioning of the Supreme Court rising, the court today (July 22) decided to form a seven-judge committee to look into whether resumption of Physical Court hearings was actually advisable within the COVID pandemic atmosphere. The committee will be headed by Justice NV Ramana.

This was announced by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, while hearing another matter (the Centre’s plea seeking reconsideration of Supreme Court’s stand on the creamy layer concept).

The CJI said that the committee will decide in four weeks whether the physical hearing in the Supreme Court could resume amid COVID19.

The remark was made when the lawyers in case being hear insisted that the matter be heard in a physical court. At this Chief Justice said: “We cannot have 60 lawyers before us in video conferencing or in the courtroom.”

The issue of physical hearing was again placed before the bench in a plea filed by the Bar Council of India, seeking financial assistance, including disbursal of soft loans to financially needy advocates enrolled with the various state bar councils.

The court has taken cognizance of the dire straits that lawyers are in and is proactively taking action in this, but it also realizes that the ultimate solution to this would be resumption of physical hearings. The COVID pandemic situation, however, presented immense risk to lawyers, litigants, sub-staff as well the bench. In states where lockdowns have been re-imposed, this has become an even bigger problem.

The court observed: “There is a constant demand to resume normal functioning of the courts. This demand is difficult as it jeopardizes the health of all those who attend court in congregation, including judges and lawyers. Medical advice is to not start resumption of court immediately.”

At the same time, the court is also taking note that it is not possible to ignore livelihoods of lawyers. Hence it has issued notice to the Bar Council of India, all State Bar Councils, Registrar General of All High Courts and the Central Government.

–  India Legal Bureau

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