The Bombay High Court on Tuesday said it would take a decision within this week on whether to use a hybrid system (online and physical) of hearing matters in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra. Earlier this month, the Nagpur and Aurangabad benches of HC reverted to video conference (VC) hearing of cases owing to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
The Bombay bench of HC is, however, hearing matters physically. On Tuesday, senior advocate Vikram Nankani, while mentioning the petition filed by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh against Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, told a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni that senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi would appear for Singh if the option of VC hearing was available.
To this, Chief Justice Datta said while the court has received recommendations for adopting the hybrid system of hearings, no decision has been taken yet.
Chief Justice Datta said an internal meeting with the administrative committee of the High Court would be held this week and a decision would be taken based on what the experts suggest.
The Bombay Bar Association had last week sent a representation to Chief Justice Datta requesting for hearings to be conducted via VC or a combination of physical and online methods so that those lawyers who do not wish to travel can appear before the court online. On Monday, the HC issued a circular restricting the official timings for all subordinate courts in Maharashtra.
As per the circular, all subordinate courts will function from 11am to 1.30pm and 2pm to 4.30 pm. Last week, Justice Gautam Patel issued a notice saying lawyers and all parties with cases listed in his court could choose to attend hearing through video conferencing interface After the nationwide lockdown imposed in March last year, all benches of Bombay HC had stopped physical hearings, and were conducting hearings for urgent cases through video conferencing.
However, in December last year, the principal bench at Bombay resumed physical hearings for all cases on four out of the five working days of a week.
On Fridays, a few designated courts hear such matters through VC where the lawyers or parties are not based in Mumbai.