SC Issues Directions for Hearings via Video-Conferencing

A Supreme Court bench of CJI SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao heard a suo moto case. On guidelines for the functioning of courts via video-conferencing during the nationwide lockdown. The bench directed that National Informatics Centre (NIC) State Officials be appointed to aid state High Courts to set up hearings via video-conferencing.

The CJI bench emphasized the importance of social distancing and the use of video-conferencing and its modalities. The bench issued the following directions:

  • The court will have the power to restrict entry into courtroom to maintain distancing. No presiding over will restrict the entry of the parties to the case unless the parties are suffering any health problems;
  • Any complaint on videoconferencing quality to be made during, or immediately after hearing. No grievance can be raised afterwards;
  • District courts to adopt videoconferencing in accordance with respective HC rules, until HCs frame rules, no evidence can be recorded unless agreed to by both parties;
  • Presiding over can prohibit entry into courtroom, power to restrict gathering;
  • Courts to make appropriate arrangements for litigants who can not access videoconferencing facilities, until appropriate rules are framed by the HCs videoconferencing will be used;
  • All courts to maintain helpline for grievances regarding video feed and line during and immediately after the hearing”

Follow the social distancing guidelines while maintaining the Constitutional role.”- The CJI bench stated. During the hearing, Attorney General, KK Venugopal went on to suggest the use of video conferencing even after the lockdown is over. The AG said, “We should not stop merely as long as COVID is there. Need to continue video conferencing even after lockdown”.