The President of Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) on Tuesday has written a letter to the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde requesting resumption of working of the Courts in a physical setting from July, 2020.
Mr Shivaji M. Jadhav, President, SCAORA has congratulated the proactive role of the Supreme Court in the effort to provide access to justice in these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic and also expressed his gratitude for the provision of the new E-Filing module software. He said SCAORA is truly honoured to receive such individualized services for lawyers which would enable them to now use their time in a more effective manner. Dr Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Chairman of the E-Committee has rightly said that “Access to justice cannot suffer in a lockdown, whatever be the circumstances”, and that online filing of matters, scrutiny, curing of defects etc., will now be possible 24/7 with the new E-Filing module.
Mr. Jadhav has shared the feedback with the CJI that was received from the advocates which is as follows:-
- Most lawyers (almost 95%) are not comfortable with the Virtual Court hearings. The common feedback seems to be that the lawyers are unable to present their cases effectively in the Virtual medium and the same is acting as a major deterrent for lawyers to consent for such virtual hearings.
- In matter involving several parties and appearance by many lawyers, not all lawyers are given a chance to speak and sometimes, their mics are put on mute by the Coordinator as a result of which, their matters get heard in their absence.
- There are problems with audio and video quality of hearings, which results in the lawyers not being able to effective put forth their arguments.
- Many lawyers are not well equipped with knowledge on the use of computers and hence they are unable to participate in the process effectively.
- There are still several lawyers who are outside Delhi/NCR and in their respective hometowns, not having access to their files and thus unable to participate effectively in Virtual Court hearings.
- Many a times, when a Senior Advocate or arguing Counsel appears, he/she is left to appear on their own. The AOR/briefing lawyer is unable to assist them effectively in this virtual medium.
- Most lawyers are facing severe financial problems during this pandemic, due to staggered working of Courts for the past 3 months. Several lawyers have expressed their concern over to the Executive Committee of SCAORA over the loss of livelihood during the past few months. Unless the normal functioning of Courts is resumed, the said concern will not abate.
- Many a times, all documents filed through E-filing are not available with the Bench.
- Lawyers are not able to effectively present their cases like reading out Judgments, provisions from Bare Acts etc.
- After filing of matters, the Registry takes its own time to scrutinize matters. Lawyers are having to follow up and give several reminders to the Registry officials. The defect curing mechanism as well as the registration of matters are problematic areas which needs urgent re- consideration.
In view of such practical difficulties, the President on behalf of SCAORA and thousands of lawyers, requested the Court to resume physical Court hearings upon re-opening in July 2020 after summer vacations. Moreso, in light of the announcement of the Unlock 1.0 and measures to be undertaken to resume normalcy in a phased manner.
In his letter, Mr. Jadhav has also made few suggestions for safety of all concerned in this regard which are as follows:-
- The total number of matters be split into two slots, to be taken up before lunch and post lunch. Every lawyer could be required to compulsorily leave the Courtroom after his/her matter is over.
- Limited number of lawyers per matter be allowed, such as only the concerned AOR with Senior Advocate or arguing Counsel and one junior lawyer.
- Lawyers appearing in 10 matters be allowed to be present at any given time. (Items 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 and likewise).
- Entry of litigants, interns and law students be restricted for the time being.
- Clerks’ entry/exit be regulated. They may be permitted to keep the files and books before the Court sits and retrieve the same after the Court rises.
- The existing distance between the lawyers and Judges be increased. The quality and working of mics be improved so that lawyers can be heard even from a distance.
- Every person entering Court room be necessarily told to sanitize his/her hands.
- Wearing of masks be made compulsory for all lawyers even inside the Courtroom, with the lawyer who is arguing to wear a face shield.
- Separate door for entry and exit of lawyers be earmarked.
- Entry to lawyers in the Court be confined only to the lawyers in the cause list. The library, canteen etc. to remain closed.
Read the Letter Here;SCAORA-Representation-to-Honble-The-CJI-for-Resumption-of-Physical-Courts-02.06
-India Legal Bureau