Delhi High Court to Continue Virtual Hearings Till July 23 Due to Delta Plus Variant Threat

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The Delhi High Court Monday said it has decided to continue with existing system of hearing urgent cases via video conference till July 23 amidst the threat of Delta Plus, a variant of concern of coronavirus. The Full Court of the Delhi High Court has resolved to adopt a policy of wait and watch and to act cautiously in view of the loss of precious lives of judicial officers, advocates and court staff.

The order also said that all the pending routine or non-urgent matters listed in the high court between July 3 and July 23 shall be adjourned en-bloc to corresponding dates between August 21 and September 9. A similar order was also passed by the high court with regard to the functioning of district courts here, stating that all the judicial officers shall take up urgent matters and final arguments cases' of their respective courts through video conferencing till July 23 while the order matters shall be adjourned by them.

The administrative order said the full court, while reviewing the existing arrangement of hearing of matters before the Delhi High Court and district courts here, has observed that despite there being decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the national capital, utmost precaution needs to be taken in view of the predicted third wave and limited availability of vaccines. The order also advised all the stakeholders to get themselves vaccinated at the earliest.

Considering the threat of Delta Plus, a variant of concern (VoC), the full court has, therefore, resolved to adopt a policy of wait and watch, and to act cautiously, particularly in view of the loss of precious lives of judicial officers, advocates and court staff, the order said. It said all the benches of the high court, registrars and joint registrars (judicial) shall continue to take up urgent matters, as per existing arrangement, through video conferencing till July 23 and that the cases instituted in 2020 shall also be taken up as per roster from July 3.

On April 18, the high court had said that from April 19 onwards it will only take up "extremely urgent matters" filed this year. Similar orders were issued on April 23 and May 15. Prior to that, on April 8, it had decided that from April 9 to April 23 it will take up matters "through virtual mode only" in view of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The high court had commenced complete physical functioning from March 15 onwards. Subsequently, it had said that virtual or hybrid proceedings would be held on the request of lawyers.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in March last year, the court was holding proceedings through video conference. Its functioning was restricted to urgent matters from March 16 last year. Thereafter, from March 25 last year, the functioning of the high court and district courts was further restricted and no physical hearing was being conducted due to the spread of COVID-19.

Subsequently, from September last year a few benches started holding physical courts everyday on a rotation basis. Some of them also started holding hybrid proceedings, wherein lawyers have the option to attend the hearing via video conference instead of appearing in person.

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