As a step towards resuming physical hearings, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that from October 20, all cases listed on Wednesdays and Thursdays will only be tried in the physical presence of lawyers and plaintiffs in courtrooms.
The Supreme Court has been reviewing cases by videoconference since last March due to the pandemic, and several bar associations are demanding immediate resumption of physical hearings.
In new standard operating procedures (SOPs), published late at night, the Supreme Court said the decision was based on the encouraging response from the bar and to further facilitate physical hearings.
“In view of the encouraging response from the Bar Association and with the aim of further facilitating the physical hearing, all issues listed on Wednesday and Thursday as not related to other days will only be considered in the physical presence of the lawyers / parties in the courtrooms,” circular circulated on Thursday.
He said that all the issues listed on Tuesday as not related to different days will also be heard in physical mode, however, upon prior request from the AOR (attorney on record) for the party, attendance via video / teleconference. the regime will be facilitated.
The AOR is a lawyer with the authority to act and defend the interests of a party in the Supreme Court.
It stated that, unless ordered by the court, all issues, regardless of their nature, listed on different days, should continue to be considered via video / teleconference pending further orders.
“During hearings in the courtroom in physical mode, there may be breaks for a period of about 15 minutes at the discretion of the panel, so that the hall can be sanitized, for which it is necessary to vacate the entire courtroom,” he said.
It states that if the collegium considers that in a specific case listed on days other than different days, the number of lawyers exceeds the capacity of the courtroom. COVID-19 regulations, the Registry will facilitate the handling of such issues through video / teleconferencing / hybrid mode.
In a physical-mode case, one AOR or its nominee, one dispute attorney and one associate attorney from each party will be allowed to enter the courtroom, the statement said.
He also said that one registered party secretary, at the choice of the AOR, would also be allowed to carry paper books / magazines, etc. to courtrooms.
“Lawyers will enter the High Security Zone to appear for physical hearings through travel cards / photo passes and for parties through photo passes, which will be issued by the Secretariat in accordance with the practice in place prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.” , – the message says.
He also clarified that guidelines and protocols to prevent COVID infection, including wearing masks, using hand sanitizer frequently, and adhering to safe distancing guidelines, are mandatory for anyone entering Supreme Court premises.
Earlier, on August 29, SC issued an SOP for a final physical hearing from September 1 and used a hybrid version from Tuesday to Thursday in strict compliance with relevant Covid regulations.