J-K High Court suspends physical hearing till Apr 18 amid surge in COVID cases

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Jammu, Apr 5 (PTI) Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal on Monday ordered suspension of physical hearing in both wings of the high court as well as district and subordinate courts and tribunals till April 18, citing surge in COVID-19 cases.

The order would also come into effect in the union territory of Ladakh, which also falls in the jurisdiction of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

However, the three-page order said in addition to the virtual hearing, the matters may also be taken up for physical hearing, where the counsel for both the parties give their consent for such physical hearing.

'Keeping in view the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the country in general and UTs of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh in particular, the high court order dated February 3, regarding resumption of physical hearing of cases is kept in abeyance for the time being and the hearing of cases in the high court of J-K as well as in the district and subordinate courts and tribunals (in J-K and Ladakh) would be conducted through virtual mode,' the order said.

Passing several directions, Justice Mithal said the entry of litigants and public into the court premises from the very outer gate would continue to be prohibited.

'If the counsel for either party declines or fails to give such consent (for physical hearing) in that event the roster bench may consider the request of other counsel for physical hearing,' the order read.

It said the identification of cases for physical hearing would be done by the concerned registrar judicial a day before the date of listing.

'Advocates concerned in a particular case, who intend to get their case listed for physical hearing, shall give written consent for physical hearing and provide the requisite detail of the case to the concerned registrar judicial through e-mail at least two days before the date of listing,' it said.

The order said the registrar judicial concerned, then, would provide list of such counsels whose cases are listed for physical hearing, well in time to the incharge security at the main gate to facilitate entry of such counsel.

In order to decongest the offices, the order said the officials would be permitted to function in batches with 25 per cent reduction on rotation basis.

'The roster in this regard shall be formulated by the registrar judicial of the concerned wing. The officials, who as per the roster, are not on duty in the office, shall not leave the station and shall remain available on telephone and electronic means of communication at all times,' the order said.

It said that the staff on duty and the counsel appearing physically in court would take necessary precautions in accordance with COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines.

Issuing similar directions to district and subordinate courts and tribunals in both the UTs, Justice Mithal said, 'These directions shall remain in force till 18th of April unless reviewed earlier.' PTI TAS KJ KJ