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Delhi High Court directs district courts to permit virtual hearing as well as physical hearings

The bench directed all subordinate courts to strictly adhere to the Delhi High Court’s office orders wherein it allowed facilitating the conduct of hearings through hybrid or video conferencing mode at the request is made in this regard.

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the district courts in the capital to “strictly adhere” to its full-court order wherein the existing mechanism of hybrid hearing in the Delhi High Court and the Delhi district courts was permitted to continue where a request to such effect is made by the parties concerned.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh was hearing an application filed by some practicing lawyers alleging that the district courts are not permitting hybrid hearing despite the directions of the full bench of the Delhi High Court.

The bench, while disposing of the application, directed all subordinate courts to strictly adhere to the Delhi High Court’s Office Orders dated August 12, 2021, and October 29, 2021, wherein it allowed facilitating the conduct of hearings through hybrid or video conferencing mode if the request is made in this regard.

The bench noted thus:

“Since the High Court has already issued directions with regard to the system of hearing of the matter before the Delhi district courts, we make it clear that all courts subordinate to the High Court falling in all the districts of Delhi is bound to comply with the same; and it cannot be that any judicial officer decides not to obey the said orders and deny the request for a hybrid hearing in any matter listed before him/her.”

The instant application has been filed by one Anil Kumar Hajelay and other practicing lawyers who are all senior citizens, in a plea filed by them seeking directions to hold hybrid hearings at the subordinate courts and quasi-judicial bodies in Delhi, on the ground that there are several counsels who suffer from co-morbidities and are unable to appear before courts physically due to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Also Read: Delhi High Court’s new SOP effective November 22 restricts entry into court blocks

The Bench had, during the previous course of hearing, directed the Delhi Government to file a Status Report indicating steps taken for the purpose of implementation of the Hybrid Hearing Project at all subordinate courts and quasi-judicial forums.
Raising concern over delay in providing necessary infrastructure and other facilities for functioning of proceedings in hybrid mode, the Bench had earlier stated that:

“Access to justice is a vital right which is available to all, and on account of the ongoing Pandemic, the same has been gravely hampered. The District Courts as well as the Consumer Forums/ Courts & Labour Commissioners are not being able to function efficiently due to lack of infrastructure and other facilities. The arrears of cases are, therefore, mounting and the people are having to wait endlessly to get legal redressal of their grievances. There is no scientific report to suggest that we are about to see any end of the ongoing Pandemic. It appears that we are in for a long haul, and hearing of cases through the online mode may have to be resorted to for an indefinite period of time, before we are able to resume full physical functioning of Courts, Consumer Courts/ Forums and Labour Commissioners.”

“In our view, the GNCTD cannot be seen to be hesitating or vacillating in providing the necessary infrastructure and other facilities for functioning of online Courts/quasi-judicial bodies. This is a bullet, which the GNCTD will have to bite,” added the Bench. The matter is slated for next hearing on December 13, 2021.

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