The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Registrar Generals of all High Courts and Registrars of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to state on affidavits whether they have stopped virtual hearings or were continuing with it.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra further directed them to state reasons, if they have discontinued the hybrid hearing mode.
The Apex Court issued notice to the Registrar Generals and the Registrars on a petition, which alleged that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had stopped working in online mode and had gone back to having only physical hearings.
The petition filed by Sarvesh Mathur, who also appeared as party-in-person, contended that though the High Court had shifted to hybrid mode during the Covid-19 pandemic period, it had discontinued the same now.
The CJI ‘thanked’ the petitioner for bringing the matter to their attention and assured him that the Apex Court would definitely ask the High Courts why they have disbanded the virtual hearings.
He further said that the top court of the country would now do something, which it had been thinking of doing for a long time.
During the course of hearing, another lawyer pointed out that the Tribunals were also not allowing virtual hearings. The Bench then decided to issue notice to NCLAT, NCDRC and NGT also.
However, when another lawyer sought issuance of notice to the Debt Recovery Tribunals, the CJI observed that issuing notice to all DRTs across the country might be time-consuming and said that the Bench would first deal with the three tribunals on a representative basis.
The Apex Court further directed serving of notice to the Union Ministries and requested the assistance of the Solicitor General of India regarding the DRTs and other Tribunals under various Ministries.
(Case title: Sarvesh Mathur vs The Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court)