COVID-19: SC Sets up Helpline For Queries on Listing of Cases During Lockdown

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday set up a helpline number to address the queries of advocates and parties appearing in person for mentioning and listing of urgent matters during the lockdown period.

It said helpline numbers will be work between 10 AM and 5 PM on weekdays from Monday to Friday and between 10 AM and 1.30 PM on Saturday, except holidays and Sunday.

The circular issued by Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar said, in continuation of Circulars dated March 23 & March 26, 2020, and the Standard Operating Procedure for urgent hearing of matters through video conferencing, it is hereby informed that during lockdown period, following Helpline has been set up to answer the queries of the Advocates-on-Record appearing for the parties/Party-in-person with regard to mentioning and listing of extremely urgent matters, which they have already mentioned by sending a mail on mention.sc@sci.nic.in.

Earlier, in the day, the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) has written a letter to the secretary general seeking setting up of a grievance cell for problems faced during hearing of matters through video Conferencing.

Considering the current situation and the newly implemented E-filing system brought into play, there are certain steps that the SCAORA deems as necessary for further effectiveness of the said system, the resolution passed by lawyers' body said.

It said that considering the importance of having a grievance cell/centre, the Supreme Court had recently passed an order in a suo motu case asking the Courts to maintain a Helpline to ensure that any complaint in regard to the quality or audibility of feed shall be communicated during the proceeding or immediately after its conclusion.

In view of the aforementioned direction of this Court, it is requested that a Grievance cell/centre or redressal system or helpline be created on an urgent basis so as to provide the Lawyer/Party-in-person a system to file the complaints relating to the Video Conferencing and be able to assist this Court effectively, it said.

The lawyers' body also sought links for video-conferencing to all the counsels whose names get reflected in the cause list for that particular matter.

It said that in addition to the Grievance cell/centre or Redressal system or helpline for Video-Conferencing, it is also pertinent to have a helpline portal for issues that arise in E-filing (IT relating, procedure relating etc.) and subsequently listing of the matters filed.

The lawyers' body also requested that there ought to be a provision for electronic display board, similar to the electronic display board that is already available on the official website of the Supreme Court which is used at the time of the normal functioning of the Courts.

The same is necessary for the Lawyers/Party-in-person in order to remain ready for the hearing of the matter on a particular day, the resolution said, adding that immediate steps may be taken to look into the issues being faced by the lawyers on a day to day basis concerning various issues ranging from filing, listing to hearing of the matters.

The top court, which had restricted its functioning to avoid spread of coronavirus had on March 26 said that despite lockdown across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would hear matters of extreme urgency through video conferencing on Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp applications.

The circular of the apex court had laid down the modalities to be followed in requesting listing of matters involving extreme urgency to obviate the inconveniences.

In a circular issued on March 23, it had resorted to almost a lockdown- like situation to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and suspended the entry of advocates and other staff into the high security zone on the basis of their proximity cards till further orders.

The top court had also directed that the lawyers' chamber and offices will be closed, and advised that advocates should not attend office as no sanitation staffs will be allowed inside.