Advocates plead Bombay HC not to suspend virtual hearing

Mumbai: The decision of the Bombay High Court administration to resume all courts for physical hearing and suspend virtual hearings for the time being seems to have not gone down well with the advocates. Several advocates' associations have written to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court requesting him not to suspend virtual hearings for now.

One of the prime associations, the Bombay Bar Association (BBA), has written a letter to Chief Justice Dipankar Datta urging him to allow advocates to continue with the virtual hearings too.

Notably, the administration had issued a circular notifying resumption of physical hearings from December 1, which is probably eight months after the nation-wide lockdown. The notification made mandatory, appearance of advocates physically.

Taking exception to the same, the BBA through its president senior counsel Dr Birendra Saraf urged the CJ to consider allowing the advocates to choose appearing before the courts either physically or virtually.

In its four-page letter, the BBA cited the present statistics of COVID-19 in India and specifically in Maharashtra and Mumbai, which have scaled up from past one week. The letter further proceeds to state how the courts switched to virtual hearings when the number of cases in the state were hardly 50 in March and how it now proposes to resume physical hearings at a time when the active cases here are above 80,000.

The association has pointed out the need to continue with virtual hearings as sudden physical hearings would force them to risk their lives to COVID-19. It further states that most of the HC judges and senior counsels are above 50 years of age and have comorbodities, thus all of them run a risk of contracting the dreaded virus.

The letter further mentions if most advocates travel in the public transport then they too would run a risk of contracting the virus since hardly there are possibilities to maintain social distance in the city's existing transport system.

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