Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. The outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent imposition of the nationwide lockdown saw almost every sphere of life being brought to a standstill.
The threat of a long break seemed very real for the judiciary too, a scenario that would have added to the already overflowing backlog of cases besides a host of other issues. But for the need of the hour, the judiciary rose up to the challenge, devising ways to carry out its constitutional duties i.e. by employing video conferencing techniques in its day to day functioning.
The Supreme Court of India vide its order dated 06th of April passed in a Suo Moto case observed that the functioning via video conferencing cannot be seen as a temporary issue as technology is here to stay and laid down various guidelines for itself, High Courts as well as subordinate courts to opt the mode of video conferencing to carry out day to day legal proceedings and in turn minimise the physical appearances of the parties to prevent the spread of infection in courts.
The Supreme Court of India heard 502 cases through video conferencing during the first month of lockdown. After that it heard 835 cases by 1st May wherein it disposed of 337 cases from March 23 to May 1 including 92 writ petitions, 138 review petitions and 49 appeals from high courts. The court also delivered 57 judgments during this period. The number is likely to go up as single-judge benches have started sitting from Wednesday and more benches are expected to sit from next week.
The 25 High Courts in the country heard 6,677 cases through video conferencing during the first month of lockdown. Rajasthan High Court which heard 1,096 cases topped the list of high court followed by Telangana High Court with 1,088 cases and Gujarat High Court with 1,013 cases.
Delhi High Court heard 134 cases from March 25 to April 20. However, it upped the ante after that and heard 623 cases by May 1.The Bombay high court heard 344 cases from March 22 to April 21.
The Patna High Court disposed of about 350 bail applications in one day through video conferencing. Patna High Court became the first court in the country to settle a case during a lockdown. On Wednesday, 795 bail cases were listed for hearing before all the judges, of which around 350 were heard.
During the first month of lockdown, district courts across the country heard 1,37,163 cases through video conferencing. This unusually high number is due to the fact that it includes cases where prisoners where produced through video conferencing for extension of remand.
-India Legal Bureau