Bombay High Court judge, Justice Gautam Patel has issued guidelines for regulating crowd in his courtroom in view of the rising COVID cases in Maharashtra and the risks posed by overcrowding of lawyers and litigants inside the court.
The judge also made it clear that he will suspend physical hearings if the minimum precautionary measures laid down by him are not observed by lawyers and litigants.
A notice to this effect was issued by the judge’s office.
“There is far too much overcrowding in Court Room 37. Advocates and Parties are not observing safety norms and precautions,” the notice said.
The notice, therefore, set out guidelines to be followed by the advocates and litigants coming to his court in order to ensure the social distancing norms are followed.
“This is for a reason, which should be obvious,” the notice stated.
The guidelines are as follows:
– With immediate effect, only those who have matters in Court will be permitted entry’
– Advocates and parties are to come to court in accordance with the time-slots which are specified at the top of the board.
– Advocates in the next time slot are not to come into the court room ahead of time.
– There may be random checks by the court staff and those without matters will be made to leave.
In order to facilitate lawyers further, Justice Patel said that he has instructed his court associate to flash messages on the online display board if the previous time slot is delayed for any reason.
“If these minimal precautionary measures are not observed, the Court will immediately suspend all physical hearings and revert to online hearings in all matters,” the notice warned.
Justice Patel had opined during a webinar last year that virtual hearing as an option for holding court hearings is here to stay and should remain as an option for a judge.
The Bombay High Court had issued a notice and a fresh standard operating procedure (SOP) to resume full-fledged physical hearings in all Benches of High Court from December 1, 2020.
However the Principal Bench is presently hearing matters through a ‘hybrid setting’ wherein they are hearing matters virtually once or twice a week.
[Read notice here]