The court further said that normal working of the HC until April 14 is not possible due to lack of staff and lawyers and litigants finding it difficult to approach the court as local transport is shut down. (File)
A four-judge bench of the Bombay High Court on Thursday ordered that all interim orders passed by the courts across Maharashtra, which are in operation, shall continue until April 30 in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, the court clarified that interim orders, which have not been granted for limited duration, shall remain unaffected and parties are at liberty to seek vacation of interim orders only in extremely urgent cases.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice Bhushan P Dharmadhikari, Justice A A Sayed, Justice S S Shinde and Justice K K Tated was formed in view of the emergent situation of the COVID-19 outbreak and consequential 21-day national lockdown.
Passing a suo motu order on Thursday, the bench said that orders for eviction, dispossession and demolition already passed by the courts will also remain in abeyance until April 30.
In view of the national lockdown, the court asked authorities across the state to go slow in taking coercive steps that drive people to the court of law. “Considering the prevalent shut down and other issues, we hope that government as also municipal authorities and other agencies or instrumentalities shall also be slow in taking any coercive steps so as to drive the citizen to court of law in the meantime,” the order noted.
The bench also took cognizance of a letter written by senior HC counsels Janak Dwarkadas, Rajani Iyer, Anil Anturkar, Mihir Desai and Gayatri Singh, seeking e-filing of cases and hearing through video conferencing to protect the court staff and to prioritise PILs pertaining to issues of underprivileged population during the lockdown.
“Facility of e-filing is already available and hearing through video conferencing can also be availed, as that arrangement has already been made since last about one week,” the court said. It added that the HC will hear urgent matters on request made through emails or other modes.
The court further said that normal working of the HC until April 14 is not possible due to lack of staff and lawyers and litigants finding it difficult to approach the court as local transport is shut down.
In view of the lockdown in the state, Justice Dharmadhikari on March 23 had appealed to lawyers and litigants to not file non-urgent matters as directed earlier, failing which exemplary costs will be imposed on them. The court has imposed costs of Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000 against litigants for approaching it with non-urgent matters so far.
Chief Justice Dharmadhikari had also issued a circular that the HC will function with a single judge each for its principal seat in Mumbai and its benches in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Goa for extremely urgent civil and criminal matters on March 23 and March 26 between noon and 2 pm. The circular had also stated that fresh matters of “extremely urgent” nature could be presented to the respective single judge bench. On Thursday, the HC, through a circular, said that the arrangement will continue up to April 15.