Calcutta High Court Bar Association Members Decide Not to Attend Physical Hearing

The Calcutta High Court Bar Association on Monday decided that lawyers will not attend physical functioning of the high court scheduled to resume partially from June 11, claiming that it will jeopardise their safety in the COVID-19 scenario.

The June 5 notification announcing resumption of physical courts "on a small scale and on an experimental basis from June 11" should be withdrawn, the association demanded.

It said that its member lawyers "will not participate in court hearings on June 11, 15, 17 and 19 or any other date fixed by the high court".

According to the notification, physical court was scheduled to sit on these four days when there will be less-than-normal number of benches and fewer people - lawyers and staff - will be allowed in the court arena.

The association, however, said its members are free to take part in virtual hearings. The high court is hearing only very urgent matters through video conference at present since the lockdown began.

The notification had also said that since a number of urgent bail matters filed during the lockdown period are pending, video hearing of bail matters will also be taken up every working day.

The association claimed that a large number of lawyers reside in the districts and take suburban trains and many others avail public transport to reach the high court.

While suburban train services are yet to resume, availability of public transport is much less than required, it said.

The Bar Association said it held an online general meeting on Sunday and a large number of advocates expressed fear and apprehension that restarting physical functioning of courts at this juncture would not only endanger the lives of lawyers, but also affect the career of more than 80 per cent of the advocates practising in the high court.

In the June 5 notification, the high court registrar general had said, "In course of the week beginning June 15, a decision may be taken as to the further course of action based on the experience of the experiment till then."

If it is observed that the distancing and health and hygiene advisories are not met, "the Chief Justice may be constrained to stop the physical functioning of court", the notification said.