One of the senior-most judge of the Bombay High Court on Monday warned litigants against overcrowding in his court hall. The judge said if the parties including the advocates fail to adhere to the social distancing and other Covid-19 norms in the court hall, he would not hear their matters.
Justice Sambhaji Shinde, a senior-most judge of the HC is presently heading a division bench that comprises Justice Manish Pitale. The bench is assigned to hear criminal matters such as quashing FIRs, criminal appeals against convictions or death sentences, and other criminal work.
Usually, the court hall of the bench that is assigned with such matters is jampacked with hundreds of lawyers, clients, and even policemen present in the courtrooms.
On Monday, when Justice Shinde arrived in the court hall, he saw the usual rush and this irked the judge.
"Tell the policemen, lawyers, and other litigants to wait outside the court hall," a visibly irked Justice Shinde told his staff.
"Let's not crowd in this courtroom," he then told everyone from his dias, adding, "If you all fail to adhere to the social distancing norms, we will not hear any matter and discharge the entire board (of cases) for the day."
By Monday evening, Justice Shinde also issued a circular notifying that from Tuesday he would only hear 60 matters every day, with only 12 matters per hour.
As per the notice, the bench led by Justice Shinde will hear 12 matters from 11 am to 12 am and accordingly till 5 in the evening would hear 60 cases.
The judge further cited the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which is still in force and is binding on each individual who enters the court premises.
"The SOP is for each one of us and only for our safety. Thus, it is all the more important for everyone to adhere to the SOP and the social distancing norms," the judge said while pointing out that even the judges are sitting with a safe distance between them.
Further, Justice Shinde cited the incident at Amravati, wherein at least 60 advocates have tested positive.
"We are fortunate that we aren't subjected to any such untoward situation. We have come in the right direction till now and don't want to go back to virtual hearings," the judge added.
Notably, last week another judge of the HC - Justice Prithviraj Chavan - had refused to take up matters if the arguing counsel failed to wear a mask. He had removed a matter from his board after the counsel forgot to wear his mask.
Even Justice Gautam Patel of the HC had last month issued a notice expressing his displeasure over the manner in which advocates and litigants were overcrowding in his court hall. The judge had accordingly asked everyone to "strictly" adhere to all the normal in place for containing Covid-19 virus.