Senior Advocate Vikas Singh in a letter to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde stated that Supreme Court continuing with video conference hearings has jeopardized careers of young lawyers practicing at the apex court though it has worked to the advantage of Senior Advocates.
Singh, a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, pointed out that while young lawyers at the top court faced reduction in briefs due to video conference hearings, Senior Advocates practicing at the Supreme Court started being engaged in courts across India since they did not have to travel outside Delhi.
“Supreme Court lawyers are at a disadvantage as they have to appear only by reference from the high courts and with the online system of working the high court lawyers appear from outside thus obviating the need for engagement of young lawyers in the Supreme Court. On the contrary senior advocates are being engaged all over the country sitting in Delhi which facility is not available to the young members of the Supreme Court Bar,” said Singh.
He, therefore, urged the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court to resume physical hearings at the top court.
The Senior lawyer further stated there is no reason for the apex court to not resume physical functioning with “sufficient safeguards” when the entire country is opening.
“Entire country is opening up, of course with sufficient safeguards, I see no reason why the Supreme Court which the foundation of our democratic polity is should not resume full normal functioning by putting in place sufficient safeguards for the said opening,” Singh stated.
Singh also highlighted the difficulties faced by lawyers due to the absence of oral mentioning to get urgent matters listed. Ever since the virtual hearings began, there has been no oral mentioning of cases and lawyers must send an email to the Registry to secure urgent listing of cases.
However, Singh pointed out that since the CJI court has sat at 12 noon throughout the pandemic, “an hour of exclusive sitting for the mentioned could have been provided before the CJI court from 10:30 am onwards which is the normal functioning time of the Supreme Court where only mentioning could be taken up.”
This is the second time Singh is writing to CJI Bobde on this subject.
In his earlier letter, Singh had stated how urgent steps must be taken to ensure that lawyers with co-morbidities or elderly lawyers are not compelled to appear in Court and they can be easily allowed to participate in the hearing from their chamber or from the cubicles provided in the Supreme Court building. In this way, the normal functioning of the Court can be restored, he had suggested.
Earlier, 505 lawyers practicing at the Supreme Court had also written to the CJI on January 12 seeking resumption of physical functioning at the top court. The representation underscored that the members of the Bar, particularly young practitioners, have been going through a difficult stage in the past 10 months between the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent virtual functioning of the Supreme Court.
The Delhi High Court is set to resume physical hearing from January 18 and the subordinate courts in the national capital have also been directed to conduct physical sitting on every alternate day.
The Karnataka High Court has also ordered the district judiciary to commence normal functioning from January 18 barring courts in 7 districts where there are more than 200 active COVID-19 cases.
However, CJI Bobde has insisted that physical hearings will not take place at the Supreme Court for the time being since medical experts have advised against it.