A representation has been addressed by Supreme Court lawyers to Chief Justice of India (CJI), SA Bobde on Tuesday seeking resumption of physical functioning at the top court.
The representation, written by advocates Kuldeep Rai, Ankur Jain and Anubhav and signed by 505 lawyers including Senior Advocates has 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 letter goes on to state that the virtual functioning of the Supreme Court has more lacunae than benefits and that it has failed to adequately serve the cause of justice. In this regard, it is also noted that judges, as well as the Attorney General of India, had expressed reservations about the virtual system’s functioning.
Further, the following, among other, issues have been flagged in the letter as indicative of how the present virtual system is a failure and not subserving the interests of justice:
- Network connectivity issues;
- No proper management by the Registry when it comes to virtual hearings;
- No response to the calls by the dealing officers when it comes to mentioning;
- Dismissing of mentioning of urgent matters by mentioning bench without providing any reason;
- Over 50% of young practitioners have been constrained to leave Delhi as they are unable to meet living expenses.
The letter adds that at present, COVID-19 restrictions have been eased in private offices, malls, marriage halls, movie theatres, temples, election rallies, airports, train services bus services etc. Even the Supreme Court’s registry is working physically, while the Bar’s members are deprived of this privilege, the letter states.
Moreover, it is noted that the High Courts of Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Madras Allahabad, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Bihar, Kerala etc. have also commenced physical functioning.
Notably, the letter has also highlighted certain grievances when it comes to the mentioning and listing of matters. In this regard, it says that the mentioning branch does not respond to calls, resulting in important matters remaining pending adjudication and becoming infructuous, irrespective of whether the matters are fresh or coming after notice.
Many matters relating to life and liberty, including bail, which require immediate attention remain unheard, creating helpless situation for litigants and lawyers, it is added.
In the backdrop of these concerns, the letter-signatories have urged the CJI to consider resuming the physical functioning of the top court.
Interestingly, the CJI had on Tuesday said that physical functioning will not resume at the Supreme Court for the time being as medical experts have advised against it. He also pointed out how different High Courts, which had resumed physical hearing, were subsequently forced to shut down after Covid-19 outbreak among staff and judges.