The Delhi High Court has extended an interim order regarding adverse orders not being passed by the subordinate courts till the next date in a plea seeking direction to hold hybrid hearing at the subordinate courts and quasi-judicial bodies in Delhi.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh noted, “Let the report of the Registrar General in respect of infrastructure for hybrid hearings in the subordinate courts be tagged and placed along with the record in W.P. (C) 2018/2021.”
The petition has been filed by practicing lawyers, who are senior citizens seeking direction to hold hybrid hearings at the subordinate courts and quasi-judicial bodies in Delhi, on the grounds that adverse orders are being passed by subordinate courts if lawyers do not appear physically and therefore enormous prejudice is being caused.
The report submitted by the Registrar General as directed by the Court stated that “…hybrid hearings are not fully possible in the district courts at this stage as there are several infrastructural issues.”
Another matter tagged along with this sought direction for mechanism for vaccination of lawyers, who are enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi and who are members of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, and until the vaccination process of all lawyers is completed the notification regarding physical functioning of the Delhi HC and Subordinate Courts be suspended.
Advocate Nagarajan, appearing for the petitioner, relying upon the Rajya Sabha Standing Committee Report submitted that the hybrid hearings ought to be the way forward.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the Coordination Committee of all District Bar Associations, submitted that in view of the fact that there are several technical glitches taking place during online hearings, they cannot be equated with physical courts. He further submitted, “every Court has a territory where lawyers can practice, and unless and until there is complete reciprocity of online hearings across the country, the Delhi High Court holding online hearings would be detrimental to local lawyers.”
“…herd immunity has been acquired in Delhi and since social gatherings have already been permitted as per the orders of the Disaster Management Authority, there is no reason whatsoever, why resumption of full physical courts should not take place,” he added.
Senior Advocate Ramesh Gupta, Chairman of the Bar Council of Delhi, submitted that the decision to fully resume physical courts was pursuant to various representations made by the Bar Council of Delhi, and the learned Chief Justice had given a full hearing to the members of the Bar Council of Delhi.
Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur, President and Secretary Delhi High Court Bar Association, submitted that it is only a minority of lawyers who support non-resumption of physical courts, however, it was further added that DHCBA does not oppose hybrid hearings.
Whereas, Senior Advocates Geeta Luthra and Ramji Srinivasan and Advocate Manish Vasishth and Kirtiman Singh appearing for the petitioner submitted, “Delhi High Court Bar Association did not afford any hearing to members of the Bar.” It was also added that social distancing would not be able to be maintained in the High Court, considering the density of visitors in Court.
It was further submitted that the submission of Senior Advocate Vikas Singh with regards to the herd immunity is not correct and until and unless proper medical advice is taken, complete opening of physical courts should not take place and option of hybrid hearings ought to be available.
However, the bench considering the submission of Advocate Viraj Datar, appearing for the Delhi High Court, listed the matter before Divisional Bench subject to the direction of the Chief Justice on March 9.PMS04032021CW26732021_172640