The Supreme Court of India has begun to face difficulty with the virtual hearing of cases due to technical glitches in the system. The virtual mode of hearing was adopted by the court amid the nationwide lockdown to carry out its constitutional role of national arbitrator.
The Supreme Court in a suo moto case laid down the guidelines for the courts across country to carry out the hearing of cases via video conferencing so as to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection in courts. But the legal fraternity has now begun to question the efficacy of the virtual court system, earlier which was portrayed as a path breaking measure.
Justice Indu Malhotra during a case discussion among Judges today suggested that instead of hearing 20 matters, the Bench can easily hear 40 matters. After hearing a petitioner over a WhatsApp call, Justice Malhotra stated that virtual courtrooms are difficult, and suggested that each Counsel could argue and then leave the courtroom.
During a hearing on Tuesday last week in the Supreme Court Justice L. Nageswara Rao while hearing a case had stated that video-conferencing will be expanded and will be new norm for Supreme Court:
“Judges will sit in court rooms from next week while lawyers will argue from their chambers. Hence forth in this manner.”
This was in response to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s query asking if the Judges were sitting in a courtroom. Justice LN Rao also informed that its a pilot project and from next week the judges will be sitting in the courtrooms only. SG Mehta had supported the idea and stated that the idea will ensure that we don’t infect each other.
The Supreme Court has been hearing cases through video conferencing since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown on March 24th. Now, the lawyers argue from their chambers, the Supreme Court judges sit in the courtrooms and hearings are conducted using the VIDYO app, as guided by the rules of social distancing in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many lawyers also feel that they are not being heard properly or are not able to present their case effectively as they used to, in normal courtrooms.
-India Legal Bureau