In a move towards resuming physical hearing, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that from October 20, all matters listed on Wednesday and Thursday will be heard only in courts in the presence of lawyers and litigants.
The apex court has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March last year due to the pandemic and at times the bodies and lawyers have been demanding that physical hearings resume immediately.
In a fresh Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued late evening, the top court said the decision was taken in view of the encouraging response from the Bar and to facilitate hearing through physical mode.
“In view of the encouraging response from the Bar and to facilitate hearing through physical mode, all matters listed as non-miscellaneous days on Wednesday and Thursday will be heard only in the physical presence of the counsels/parties. Court room,” the apex court said in a circular issued on Thursday.
It said that all matters listed on Tuesday as non-miscellaneous day will also be heard in physical mode, however, on prior application by the AOR (Advocate-on-Record) for the party, attendance through video/tele-conferencing. mode will be available.
An AOR is an advocate who is entitled to advocate as well as act for a party in the Supreme Court.
It said that unless directed by the court, all matters, irrespective of their nature, listed on various days, shall continue to be heard through video/tele-conferencing mode till further orders.
“During the hearing in the Court Room, at the discretion of the Bench, there may be a break in physical mode for a period of about 15 minutes so as to sanitize the Court Room, for which it is necessary that the entire Court Room is vacated,” Said it.
It said that if the bench is of the view that in a particular case listed on non-miscellaneous days, the number of lawyers exceeds the working capacity of the court room, as per COVID-19 As per norms, the Registry will facilitate hearing of such cases through video/tele-conferencing/hybrid mode.
It said that in a matter listed for hearing in physical manner, one AOR or his nominee, one arguing counsel and one junior counsel on each side shall be permitted to enter the courtroom.
It further stated that one registered clerk per party, as may be chosen by the AOR, shall also be permitted to carry paper books/journals etc. to the Court Room.
“Entry of the Counsels in the High Security Zone to appear for the hearing through physical mode shall be through Proximity Card/Photo Entry Pass and in person through Photo Entry Pass as per the exercise issued by the Registry. will be issued. The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.
It further clarified that the guidelines and protocols for prevention of COVID infection including wearing of masks, frequent use of hand sanitizers and maintaining safe distance norms are mandatory for all entrants to the Supreme Court premises.
Earlier on August 29, the SC had issued SOPs for conducting the final hearing of cases in physical mode from September 1 and appointed a hybrid option from Tuesday to Thursday amid strict adherence to COVID appropriate norms.