Mumbai: Courts took virtual route to keep going

When the city went into lockdown, courts had to go on. Though not working as in normal times, matters such as bail applications concerning an individual’s personal liberty had to be heard.

An additional public prosecutor at the city sessions court at Kalaghoda, Ramesh Siroya who lives at Fort, walking distance from the court, was among the few prosecutors who lives in South Mumbai and assisted the court during the initial times, when the fear of the virus was at its peak and prosecutors who lived in suburbs had commuting difficulties.

Speaking of the initial times, Siroya says he and others were risking their lives. “At that time the medical fraternity was yet to understand the virus, and the fear of the virus was at its peak,” he says and recalls his family telling him to avoid attending court.

The legal fraternity also encountered a completely different ball game in the form of virtual hearings. Advocate Kadar Sayani calls the experience of attending the hearings from the comfort of his home library “enriching”. “I learnt something new every time,” he says. He recalls how sessions lasted beyond court hours. Waiting time in courts changed as well. He found himself pacing his home in his court attire. Those times he missed the table discussions with fellow advocates at the Bar room and even more - the free flow of coffee every now and then in the Bar room. Though Bar rooms opened late last year, they still operate with restrictions.

Preparing for hearings has changed in these times too. Now, lawyers have more discussions virtually with their colleagues. “I miss the discussions I would have with colleagues immediately after a hearing,” says Sayani.

Courts started regular functioning in December last year. While the Bombay High Court held virtual hearings during the pre December period, with very few physical hearings, the lower courts which did not have the requisite infrastructure had heard urgent matters physically.

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