The Supreme Court on Friday called for responses from Registrar General of all High Courts across the country and few other Tribunals for continuing virtual hearings using video conferencing facilities.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra issued notice after a PIL claimed that the Punjab and Haryana High Court has completely abandoned hybrid hearings post the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The petitioner-in-person has a grievance that the video conferencing facilities which have been set up by the P&H HC are not being put to use…Issue notice to the Registrar General of P&H High Court,” ordered the bench.
It also issued notices to all Registrar General of all other High Courts across the country and Registrar of NCLATs, DRTs and NGT to inform the Supreme Court as to whether litigants and advocates are allowed proceedings to appear via hybrid mode through video conferencing.
“Thank you for bringing this to our notice. We are issuing notices to all the High Courts,” remarked the CJI and also assured the petitioner-in-person that the top court will, at a later stage, deal with the issue of e-filling in the judicial institutions.
The petitioner-in-person apprised the top court that the Punjab and Haryana High Court is not allowing appearance of litigants and advocates through video conferencing after the pandemic despite the availability of infrastructure.
Last month during the Constitution Bench hearing on Article 370, CJI Chandrachud had told the bar that the Supreme Court is setting up its own cloud software for video conferencing to enable virtual hearings in all lower courts across the country.
“In Phase-III of eCourts (Project), we have a huge budget, so we are in process of setting up our own cloud software for video conferencing,” he had said.
Earlier in February, during hearing on a plea for declaring virtual hearing as a part of fundamental rights, a CJI-led bench had stressed that technology is not just for the pandemic and High Courts should not insist on physical presence of lawyers.
The top court had also asked the Chairman of Bar Council of India to call a report from Bar Councils of various states on steps to be taken to improve the use of technology for the lawyers.
During his recent address to the convocation ceremony of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, CJI Chandrachud had highlighted that during the pandemic, courts across India held as many as 43 million hearings through virtual mode.
At an earlier occasion, he had pointed out that between March 23, 2020 and October 31, 2022, the Supreme Court alone heard 3.37 lakh cases through video conferencing.