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“May Not Be Possible To Conduct Only Physical Hearings For Some Time:” SC E-committee Allows High Courts To Choose VC Platform Of Their Choice

The e-Committee clarified that it is working on the modalities for adopting one video conferencing solution for all courts across India.

By: Nidhi N. Anand, Ramaiah College of Law

Supreme Court e-Committee Chairperson Dr. Justice DY Chandrachud wrote to Chief Justices of all High Courts stating that it might be impossible to shift back to physical hearings for the present time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and courts will have to depend on a hybrid model of hearing for some time.

In his letter dated June 7, the Supreme Court judge also authorised the High Courts to make video conference arrangements on any platform of their choice.The letter by Justice Chandrachud came after the Madhya Pradesh State Bar Council chairperson, Dr. Vijay Choudhary wrote to him highlighting grave concerns being faced by an overwhelming majority of the advocates practicing before the Madhya Pradesh High Court due to the video conference hearings being conducted using the ‘Jitsi platform’.

Considering the present situation of the pandemic, consistent with the need to protect the safety of lawyers, litigants, court staff, judges and other stake-holders, it may not be possible to conduct only physical hearings of court proceedings and we may have to rely upon a hybrid model of hearing for some time. We need to plan effectively to be able to deal with all exigencies,” the letter said.

The letter further emphasised on the fact that 96,74,257 cases were heard by High Courts and Districts courts from March 2020 to April 2021 by means of video conference through the digital infrastructure provided by the e-Courts project.

As per the letter, the resolution to authorise High Courts to take on any video conferencing option was taken after concerns were raised by advocates, bar associations and litigants about the issues faced by them while participating in court proceedings conducted through video conference.

The co-operation of the Bar and litigants is crucial for the efficient dispensation of justice. The vision of the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India is to establish a judicial system which is inclusive, efficient and equitable. Promoting and enabling technology driven courts is one such step towards making justice accessible and affordable for all persons,” the letter said.

The e-Committee mentioned that it is working on the modalities for adopting one video conferencing solution for all courts across India. In the meanwhile, High Courts can adopt a suitable video conferencing solution from any of the available options till the e-Committee comes up with one video conferencing solution for all courts.

“Until the e-Committee can eventually provide one video conferencing solution for all High Courts, certain steps can be taken to facilitate judicial work, on the re-opening of courts after the summer recess,” the letter said.

Justice Chandrachud had earlier written to Madhya Pradesh (MP) High Court Chief Justice (CJ) Mohammad Rafiq and all other Chief Justices of High courts to take corrective measures to see that the concerns raised by the Bar regarding inferior audio-video quality plaguing virtual court hearings in MP High Court, are addressed.

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