The Delhi High Court on Thursday decided to shift to the virtual system of hearings from January 3 in view of rise in COVID-19 cases and the subsequent 'yellow alert' declared by the Government in the National Capital.
A statement issued by the High Court, which had started physical hearings from November 22, said that the virtual proceedings arrangement shall continue till January 15.
The decision was taken after an office note was placed before Chief Justice D N Patel highlighting the present system of hearing of matters in the High Court and District Courts and also about the rise in number of cases of COVID-19 infection in Delhi.
"There is, indubitably, a sudden spurt and spike in COVID-19 cases in the NCT of Delhi. Such rise is quite alarming and worrisome. The Government of NCT of Delhi has already issued 'yellow alert' in Delhi. It's high time that this Court also takes all the possible precautionary and preventive measures to thwart any possibility of resurgence of any wave of extreme nature," the statement said.
The statement quoted Justice Patel saying, "I have also consulted with the esteemed members of the Administrative and General Supervision Committee of this Court. They all are also of the view that immediate steps are required to be taken to safeguard the health and well-being of all the stakeholders while also ensuring that the justice delivery system remains functional."
It further said inputs were also taken from the President of Delhi High Court Bar Association and Chairman of Coordination Committee of All District Court Bar Associations of Delhi and other senior office bearers and they have assured full cooperation.
The present grim scenario has left us with no other viable option. It is thus directed that this Court shall, with effect from January 3, 2022, take up the matter, as per the existing arrangement with regard to listing of cases, through virtual mode only, the statement said.
District Courts as well as the Courts of Registrar and Joint Registrar (Judicial) will also take up matters from January 3, through virtual mode only and video conferencing links will be made available on the website or causelist.
The statement further said that the Principal District and Sessions Judges, in consultation with the DG (Prisons), shall make necessary arrangements for extension of remand of undertrial prisoners and whenever required, they shall be produced through video-conferencing.
It said that the situation shall be reassessed and reviewed, shortly.
It also said that stakeholders including Court staff, who are required to come to the Courts, shall get themselves fully vaccinated and strictly adhere to the norms of social distancing and COVID-19 protocols, guidelines and directions issued by the Central and Delhi Governments and the High Court from time to time.
Earlier, since March 2020, the High Court was holding proceedings through video conferencing following the outbreak of COVID-19, and subsequently, few Benches started holding physical Courts everyday on rotation basis.
Some of them were also holding hybrid proceedings, wherein lawyers have the option to attend the hearing via video conference instead of appearing in person.
Earlier, complete physical hearings were resumed in High Court from March 15, 2021, but on April 8, it was ordered that matters would be taken up through virtual mode only on account of the second wave.
With PTI Inputs