New Delhi, Mar 12 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday orally observed that its standard operating procedure (SOP) on commencement of hybrid physical hearing from March 15 would go if it has been framed without consulting the bar body, SCBA.
A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta took note of submissions of senior advocate Vikas Singh, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), that the bar body is an equal stakeholder in the justice delivery system and has not been consulted by the apex court's registry in framing SOP on hybrid physical hearing.
'In case any meetings have been held with the Bar, the Minutes of the meetings or the decisions taken thereon be placed on record. It may also be clarified if medical advisory is being taken in this process, and to what effect,' the bench said in its order.
In the hearing conducted via video conferencing, the top court also considered submissions of senior advocate Chander Lall that an appeal against the Delhi High Court's order dealing with the manner as to how hybrid hearings have to go on has been filed.
'The SLP (Special Leave Petition) also be put up along with this matter (SCBA's plea), the bench ordered while posting the cases for hearing on March 16.
“If the bar has not been consulted then the SOP will go,” the bench orally observed.
The SCBA and its Treasurer Meenesh Kumar Dubey, in the petition, has sought quashing of the SOP and a direction to the apex court's Registry not to issue “any circular without consulting the Bar”.
The top court, which has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, came out on March 5 with the SOP and a day after, the newly-elected executive committee of SCBA headed by president Vikas Singh rejected it in an emergent meeting.
'On an experimental basis, and as a pilot scheme, the final hearings/regular matters listed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays may be heard in the hybrid mode, as may be decided by the bench, considering the number of parties in a matter as well as the limited capacity of the courtrooms; all other matters, including those listed on Mondays and Fridays, shall continue to be heard through video/tele-conferencing mode,' said the SOP issued by the apex court.
The SCBA' plea, settled by its President, said the bar body has around 13,000 members and has been constrained to file the plea as “the SOP has been issued by the Registry without consultation with the Bar even though Bar is an equal stakeholder in the dispensation of the Justice Delivery System and the suggestions given by the Bar ought to have been taken into consideration.” It said in the meeting of SCBA office bearers with the Chief Justice S A Bobde on March 1, it was assured that the needful would be done by the Registry expeditiously taking into consideration the suggestions given by the Executive Committee.
“In the SOP …, there is no provision for hybrid hearing for the matters listed on Monday and Friday, i.e. Miscellaneous days when primarily fresh matters are listed. That for around last one year this court is working through virtual hearing and there is no provision for Oral mentioning in Standard Operating Procedure dated 05.03.2021…,” the plea said.
The last one year has affected especially younger members of the Bar and also there were lot of problems with regarding to muting and unmuting of lawyers in virtual hearing for the last one year so it is high time when every place has started working with safety precautions of temperature check at entry points, wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing that normalcy is restored in this court also at the earliest, it said.
“The right to mute at will during virtual hearing mitigates against the very concept of open hearing which is the convention/ norm and the constitutional requirement under article 145 of the Constitution of India.
“Also open hearing as understood prior to the pandemic is the only hearing permissible in law. Also there are a lot of problems in the software being used. Even what software to use should not be implemented without consulting the Petitioner Association,” the plea said. PTI ABA SJK RKS RKS