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Lawyer challenges Bombay High Court’s order on reduction of working hours in SC

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An Advocate from Maharashtra has knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court, seeking directions to quash the Bombay High Court’s order reducing its functioning in Mumbai to just three working hours a day, owing to the rise in Covid-19 cases in the city and state.

The petition, filed by Mumbai-based lawyer Ghanshyam Upadhyay under Article 32 of the Constitution, sought to enforce virtual hearing in all courts of the state.

According to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the administrative committee of Bombay HC on January 3 and 10, 2022, the High Court will function from 12 pm-3 pm without a lunch break from Monday to Friday.

This arrangement will apply from January 11 to 28. The order said the decision was taken after holding a meeting with other stakeholders like the civic body chief.

The PIL termed this SOP as “unrealistic” and “unreasonable.” It said the courts can be made functional through a virtual hearing without reducing the working hours.

The petition further pointed out that lawyers and litigants were facing tremendous hardship due to the reduced working hours of the HC. It even went on to say that the fundamentalrights were being violated by this SOP.

The petition also sought directions to the Bombay High Court to form guidelines and ensure virtual functioning of all courts in the state.

The plea added that virtual hearing would increase the disposal rate of cases and are the future of court proceedings.

According to the SOP, from January 3 onwards, subordinate courts in Mumbai, Pune, Raigad and Alibaug have been directed to function between 11 am and 4 pm with 50 per cent staff on rotation and to hear – remand, bail and urgent matters through physical hearing. Subordinate courts have the discretion of recording evidence virtually.

The petitioner stated that the requisite infrastructure necessary for such virtual functioning was not available to the best of his knowledge.

He said in most other states, virtual courts were found functional.

The plea stressed that judges and staff of the HC were well acquainted with online hearings, which have proved to be effective and advantageous for all concerned.
Moreover, the Covid-19’s new variant seems to have mild effects, and its casualty rate is negligible, he added.

When rallies for General Elections or Assembly Elections can be held and in fact, are being held through “virtual platforms”, there is absolutely no reason as to why the court proceedings cannot be conducted full-fledged through virtual platforms, the plea added.

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