On Wednesday, 22nd July 2020 Chief Justice of India remarked that a 7-judge committee will be looking into the matter of resuming the physical court hearing. This was considered after lawyers requested a physical hearing for the matter to be heard in court, and not via videoconferencing.
The CJI stated that the committee will be headed by NV Ramana and will look into the viability of resuming physical court hearings in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. While hearing a plea filed by the BCI for directions to the Centre and State Governments/UTs to arrange financial assistance for advocates, by way of interest-free loans up to Rs 3lakhs each to the Advocates, the CJI stated that ‘unprecedented crisis demands unprecedented resolution.’
The plea stated that prolonged closure of Tribunals and Courts have deprived the source of income of Advocates. It also highlighted that most of the Advocates were youngsters, had no savings, and are solely dependent on the working of courts for their livelihood. The plea stated, “The situation of some of them is so grim that it may not be an exaggeration to say that they face virtual starvation and they require urgent and immediate financial aid and succor.” CJI Bobde considering the rights of the citizens and legal fraternity said “The legal fraternity is restricted to income-bound by rules. Not entitled to earn income by alternative means, closure of courts has led to a situation which has rid them of a sizeable proportion of their income and therefore, livelihood.” He further stated that it is “dire circumstance” and noted that the medical device said that resumption of courts would affect the health of judges, lawyers, and equally important, the staff of the court. In the above view, Notice has been issued to the Centre, States, Bar Council of India, State Bar Council of India, each High Court’s Registrar General, and Bar Associations of all High Courts by the Top court. Suo moto cognizance of the financial crisis faced by the lawyers has also been taken into account. Last week, a former judge of the SC, Justice R. Banumathi at the virtual farewell organized by the SC Bar Association, had also hinted at the possibility of a committee looking into the aspect of physical court hearings. In response to Senior Advocate and President of SCBA, Dushyant Dave’s suggestion regarding the working of the virtual courts and the damages to the wellbeing of lawyers were irreversible, Justice Banumathi had observed that it was a decision that had to be taken by the committee of judges. While acknowledging the situation it has to be considered and it is better to wait for a while as it was more of a “life concern.” “COVID-19 is dangerous and very fatal let’s hope that a vaccine is developed and we get some good news very soon. Till then, we should wait as it concerns our lives.”