Delhi has been one of the most severely affected regions in the country by the COVID-19 pandemic. With an initial flood of cases, the government of Delhi has to approach the Union Home Ministry for support. Cases have finally started going down in the region and it has become very important to maintain caution consistently in order to make sure that this trend continues, and coronavirus is contained as much as possible.
All courts in Delhi ranging from the Supreme Court of India to district courts have not been functioning since March 2020. Physical proceedings on court premises have been suspended. The High Court keeps reassessing the situation in order to make sure that the system of administering justice can get back to its routine functioning as soon as possible. However, certain matters demand urgent attention from these courts. Taking this into consideration, the Supreme court made arrangements for online hearings to take place. Tenders were brought out and the entire digital infrastructure of this system was laid down. Urgent matters are being continuously heard by courts now via video-conferencing platforms.
The Administrative and General Supervision Committee of the Delhi High Court issued an order on 30th July 2020. This order extended the suspension imposed on the high court as well as all subordinate courts due to the prevailing circumstances of this pandemic in the National Capital Territory. The order suspends the functioning of courts till 14th August 2020 which would be revised considering the circumstances at hand. Moreover, the notice also ordered the district courts of Delhi to take up cases listed before them through video-conferencing platforms. A condition was laid down which said that recording of evidence will only take place in ex-parte and uncontested matters where it is tendered by way of an affidavit. The judges of these courts have been allowed to hold online hearings from their chambers if they do not have the necessary infrastructure at their residences. Physical hearings have been permitted but only in matters of grave urgency where the circumstances are not viable for videoconferencing. The judges can also visit court premises for pronouncing judgment in a criminal case wherever required however, such physical presence would be the condition to a strict adherence to social distancing rules. Following this order, the district courts have released notices regarding these hearing with strict conditions expressly mentioned. The list of online hearings has also been issued by these institutions to prevent any confusion regarding time and other factors.