The Delhi High Court on Monday directed that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) may regulate their own procedure for virtual hearing platforms so long as it is ensured that if any particular party requests for a link, the same is considered in a fair, transparent and non-arbitrary manner.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh noted, “Parties who join the proceedings are expected to maintain the discipline of virtual hearing and not cause unnecessary disturbance during the same.”
The petition has been filed by advocate Deepak Khosla seeking provision of open or virtual links for attending hearings in the NCLT and NCLAT.
Appearing in person, Khosla submitted that the NCLT and NCLAT use the CISCO Webex platform and they should satisfy the definition of an “open court” and permit the petitioner to witness all proceedings relating to Delhi Gymkhana Club or other matters of interest.
The petition has further sought a direction to NCLT and NCLAT
“to allow /provide links at any time from the start of court hours at 10:30 AM onwards, and not simply at the penultimate moment when the matter is taken up for hearing.”
The additional affidavit submitted by the Deputy Registrar of the NCLAT stated that the NCLT and NCLAT are both using a bandwidth of 100 MBPS, whereas, in order to regulate the conduct of virtual hearings and to maintain discipline, it is necessary to regulate the links which are provided to counsels.
However, the bench was of the opinion,
“Forums like the NCLT and NCLAT, which have a high quantum of work, ought to be permitted to regulate their own procedure so long as the same is not arbitrary. In virtual hearings, there is a possibility of an enormous disturbance if there is no regulated entry.”
Disposing of the petition, the bench noted,
“In any case, the NCLAT would also start physical hearing of matters. Since virtual hearings are a measure adopted to ensure that tribunals and courts are functioning during the Covid-19 pandemic, the petitioner, if he wishes to join any particular hearing, may write an e-mail at least 24 hours in advance to the deputy registrar of the NCLT and NCLAT. The same shall be considered in accordance with the NCLT and NCLAT’s own procedure, in a fair, transparent and non-arbitrary manner.”