In view of COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictions put in place by the appropriate authorities, the Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday through a notification has issued directions for the functioning of Subordinate Courts.
It was directed that the Court proceedings in the Subordinate courts will be conducted as per the directions mentioned in the notification.
The High Court directed that before opening of a Subordinate Court, District Judge will ensure complete sanitisation and cleaning of entire court campus, particularly sanitisation ofthe court rooms, which will be functional on that day.
Further it was said that in addition to extremely urgent matters such as, Bail Applications, Remand matters, Injunctions/ stay applications and Statement under Section164 CrPC, being taken up till now, District and Sessions Judge of each district may also consider court working in the following nature of cases, considering that it will not involve any major appreciation of evidence, and their disposal can be made easily.
- Traffic challan cases under the Motor Vehicles Act.
- Cases which have reached a stage and now to be decided by settlement or compromise between the parties.
- Release of vehicles.
- Petty cases relating to Excise Act.
- MACT cases.
- Criminal revisions.
- Civil revisions.
- Statement of accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C.
- Matter relating to Section 251 Cr.P.C.
The High Court said that: –
“Apart from that, there are special nature of cases, such as cases under POCSO where at least the child victim should be examined without delay. Insuch cases the court concern shall make effort to examine the witness without further delay, after adopting due process.
For criminal trials where the entire prosecution witnesses have been examined, the statement of the accused must be recorded immediately under Section 313 of Cr.P.C. and where the defence does not have any witness for examination or where defence witnesses have also been examined, the court may list the case for arguments.
The same goes for civil trials as well. Where all the witnesses have been examined, the matter may be fixed for arguments with consent of both the parties.
All other matters shall be adjourned suitably subject to further directions, where all the concerned parties and stake holders will be informed”.
The furthermore directions are listed below: –
- As far as possible, the bail application be decided on the same day itself, particularly for minor offences.
- Such lawyers who have urgent matter before the court but would like to argue through video-conferencing shall be permitted to do the same, depending upon the functioning and the availability of video conferencing facility in the courts.
- The concerned District & Sessions Judge are authorized to depute only bare essential judicial officers on rotational basis in each court complex for hearing of the above urgent matters. Only these officers will be required to come to the court as they have been deputed by the concerned District & Sessions Judge for the urgent court work. The remaining judicial officers, however, though shall not attend the office, but nevertheless shall remain available at home during office timings.
- The judicial officers who have been deputed for urgent work shall hold court between 10:30 a.m. to 02:00 p.m. Each District Judge, however, shall be at liberty to make adjustment in the court timings depending upon the restrictions in the District and convenience of litigants and lawyers.
- In order to minimize the physical presence of lawyers, litigants and para legals in the court rooms, the furniture of each court room, if required, be rearranged. Minimum of chair/ table be placed to ensure physical distancing.If need be, there should not be more than 4 to 6 chairs in a court room at a required place. Similarly, the distance of the dias be appropriately adjusted. Lawyers will now have to address the court from a proper distance.
- The court shall not insist on the presence of the parties, except in extremely urgent and essential cases where the presence cannot be dispensed with.
- The District & Sessions Judge of each district shall apprise the concerned Bar Association through its office bearers and request them to spread awareness amongst the Bar members, so that they may only come to the Court, when they are urgently required, and may also persuade the litigants not to visit the court campus, unless it is extremely urgent.
- The entry of law students and interns shall remain prohibited in court campus until further orders.
- To avoid public gathering and crowd, no function or any event of mass gathering shall be permitted in the court campus.
- Mediation proceedings shall be held only by video conferencing unless it is extremely urgent and that can be seen by the concerned judicial officer, on case to case basis.
- No lawyer shall be allowed to come and sit in his chamber, which is in the court campus. Unless these chambers have already been sealed by the court, the District & Sessions Judge shall take cooperation of the concerned Bar Association in closing down these chambers so that lawyers and litigants do not gather at these places.
- All canteens, cafeterias, eating joints or shops of any kind be closed in the court campus, until further orders.
- All the lawyers, para-legals, litigants and witnesses, who enter the court campus should mandatorily be wearing a mask.
- Each lawyer, para-legal, litigant, witness or any person must undergo thermal screening before they enter the court campus.
- Only the lawyer or the litigant whose case has been called shall be present in the case. The remaining in the list may wait outside the court for their turn, as and when their case is called out.
- A distance of minimum 6 feet shall be maintained between the contesting lawyers. The same distance shall also be maintained between the arguing counsels and the Presiding Judge.
- Hand sanitizers shall be provided outside of each court room as well as in the offices for use of advocates, court staff as well as litigants. The same goes for the chamber of judicial officers.
- Subject to the above directions, depending upon any unique contingency, the District Judge shall take appropriate decisions in the matter, though he/she shall promptly inform the Hon’ble Court/ concerned Hon’ble the Administrative Judge.
-India Legal Bureau