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SC tells CJs hybrid hearings will continue

Court’s e-Committee Chairperson Justice Chandrachud dispels notions that courts may revert to physical hearing mode soon

Supreme Court e-Committee Chairperson Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has written to the Chief Justices (CJs) of the High Courts that hybrid hearings will have to continue considering the pandemic situation, dispelling notions that courts may revert to the physical hearing mode soon.

The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 witnessed a quick transition within the judiciary from physical hearings to videoconferencing.

Justice Chandrachud noted that 96,74,257 cases were examined through videoconferencing across the country during the pandemic.

“Considering the present situation of the pandemic, consistent with the need to protect the safety of lawyers, litigants, court staff, judges and other stake-holders, it may not be possible to conduct only physical hearings of court proceedings and we may have to rely upon a hybrid model of hearing for some time. We need to plan effectively to be able to deal with all exigencies,” he wrote to the CJs.

Uniform videoconferencing mechanism

Justice Chandrachud, who has spearheaded the transition of the courts from physical to virtual mode, said the committee was working on a uniform videoconferencing mechanism for courts across the country.

However, until then, the letter requested the CJs to “opt for a suitable video conferencing solution from any of the available options”.

“Until the e-Committee can eventually provide one video conferencing solution for all High Courts, certain steps can be taken to facilitate judicial work, on the re-opening of courts after the summer recess… We must ensure that a robust, efficient and user-friendly video conferencing solution is available to users for effective hearing of court proceedings,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.

He urged the CJs to take corrective measures, intervene personally and keep an eye to help improve the virtual court system, especially if advocates and litigants have grievances about its quality and connectivity that impede their right to access to justice.

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