The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) Tuesday requested Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and other apex court judges to resume physical court hearings from July, while pointing out the "practical difficulties" faced by lawyers in effectively presenting their cases through virtual hearings. The apex court, which has restricted its functioning since March 25 amid spread of COVID-19 pandemic, is presently hearing matters through video-conferencing only.
In a letter addressed to the CJI and other judges of the Supreme Court, the SCAORA has said that as per the feedback received from the members of the Bar almost 95 per cent lawyers are "not comfortable with the virtual court hearings". "The common feedback seems to be that the lawyers are unable to present their cases effectively in the virtual medium and the same is acting as a major deterrent for lawyers to consent for such virtual hearings," the lawyers' body said.
"In view of such practical difficulties, I, on behalf of SCAORA and thousands of lawyers, request the court to resume physical court hearings upon re-opening in July 2020 after summer vacations. Moreso, in light of the announcement of the unlock 1.0 and measures to be undertaken to resume normalcy in a phased manner," SCAORA President Shivaji M Jadhav said in the letter.
In the letter, the SCAORA has mentioned about the feedback received from the members of Bar which included the problems with audio and video quality of the hearing which results in the lawyers not being able to effectively put forth their arguments. It said that most lawyers are facing "severe financial problems" during this pandemic due to the staggered working of the courts and "unless the normal functioning of courts is resumed, the said concern will not abate".
While requesting for resumption of physical court hearings from July, the SCAORA has said that the apex court may consider imposing other conditions for safety of all concerned such as allowing limited number of lawyers for matters. The lawyers' body has also given some suggestions including that entry of litigants, interns and law students be restricted for the time being and the existing distance between the lawyers and judges be increased.
"Wearing of masks be made compulsory for all lawyers even inside the courtroom with the lawyer who is arguing to wear a face shield," the letter said. The SCAORA has also expressed gratitude for the "proactive role" of the Supreme Court in the effort to provide access to justice in the difficult time of COVID-19 pandemic.
Referring to the provision of new E-filing module software, the lawyers' body said such individualized service for advocates would enable them to use their time in a more effective manner. "We are also truly grateful for the acknowledgment that open court hearings are the spine of our system and that virtual courts are not a substitute to physical courts," the SCAORA said.