Top seven judges of the Madras High Court have decided to start conducting physical hearing of cases in the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai as well as the Madurai Bench as a pilot measure for two weeks from September 7.
Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justices Vineet Kothari, R. Subbiah, M. Sathyanarayanan, N. Kirubakaran, M.M. Sundresh and T.S. Sivagnanam would begin hearing cases in open court with all safety measures in place to prevent spread of COVID-19.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Administrative Committee, comprising the top seven judges, on Saturday. According to sources, almost all members of the committee were in favour of the decision to resume physical hearing of the cases on a pilot basis.
Hence, it was decided that six Division Benches led by them in the principal seat would begin sitting in the open court from September 7. Three Division Benches would conduct physical hearing in the forenoon session and virtual hearing in the afternoon.
The other three Division Benches would hear cases through video conference in the forenoon and in the open court in afternoon session. The arrangement had been made to reduce the crowd on the court campus and enable lawyers to maintain physical distance.
Individual Division Benches would take a call on the cases that required a hearing in the open court and the ones which could be heard virtually depending upon requests made by lawyers and their willingness to get the cases listed before open courts.
It had also been decided to allocate waiting halls for the lawyers and let them inside court halls only as and when their cases were to be taken up for hearing. Measures would also be put in place to maintain distance between the lawyers, judges and court staff all the time.
Since Justice Sathyanarayanan was the administrative judge of the Madurai Bench now, he would lead the Bench over there. Similarly, a Division Bench led by Justice K. Kalyanasundaram would also hold physical hearing in Madurai where only two Division Benches function.
All other judges who sit single would continue to hear the cases only through video conference facility until a further decision is taken on resuming physical functioning on a full scale after discussing the issue in the Full Court (a body comprising all judges).
The High Court was closed down completely after the nationwide lockdown in March this year. Subsequently, when it resumed its functions, some of its judges and court staff tested positive for COVID-19 forcing it to decide upon holding only virtual hearings.
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