On 28-08-21, the Secretary General of supreme court had issued a standard operating procedure for physical hearing of courts from 1 September 2021.However, a day after this SOP was issued, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) sent a letter to the CJI insisting that “the SOP can be
a nonstarter as some of the members wouldn't wish to appear for physical hearing with such a amount of conditions attached”. It had uplifted objections to many clauses of the SOP, inclu 20 lawyer limit within the courtrooms, calling it “arbitrary because the size of the courtroom differs substantially”.The letter also said that forbidding entry of lawyers into the
high-risk area — which has courtrooms, libraries, canteens etc — without special entries would “dissuade” lawyers from appealing for physical hearing.
SCBA had then required the resumption of the normal functioning of the court “at the earliest”, talking about the fall in positivity rate, the chance of India having entered the epidemic stage of and also the fact that Delhi has relieved restrictions with public properties like malls, cinema halls, marriages, parties and restaurants having opened. The letter had even asserted that the threat of the third wave “does not justify limiting the working of the Supreme Court now”.
On the first day of September, the Supreme Court opened its doors for lawyers after a period of 17 months. The court had begun hearing matters through video-conferencing after the country went into a lockdown due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year. However, there seem to be few people for physical hearings because the first three days many lawyers opt for appearing for virtual hearings.
Let’s say, on the first day covid-19 lawyers joined CJI N.V Raman's court virtually. And In
some courtrooms, nobody appeared physically throughout the day. On the second day 50 lawyers join through virtual conferencing only. And on the third day 150 lawyers joined virtually as it was Friday and was already designated exclusively for virtual hearings. One of the Supreme Court advocate Shivam Singh said that the physical hearing has not received much responses
from the supreme court lawyers.Last year in August, the highest court had decided to resume physical hearing on an experimental
basis in certain courtrooms for final hearing matters with the consent of advocates. However a list of 1000 cases for physical hearing were issued, but it failed to initiate as very few advocates gave their consent for this.Supreme Court Bar Association in March through its depiction to CJI had stated that virtual hearing was only a "stop-gap" arrangement to keep the wheels of justice moving during the pandemic, in which Open Court hearing is both a convention and a Constitutional requirement.
Stating that the Covid 19 was "very much in control", it had appealed to CJI to resume physical hearing of supreme court cases.
Post several representations made in an attempt to restart physical hearings by Supreme Court Advocates On Record Association, SCBA, etc, the Supreme Court of India had decided to begin hearing cases in a very hybrid manner from March 15th, 2021 on an experimental basis.
However, the efforts of resuming the court hearings physically was put on halt due to the rise of cases and the spread of second wave.
Vikas Singh the SCBA president also stated that the way during which hybrid hearing is done has been a non-starter because "firstly the virtual option is given to lawyers who find it convenient and therefore the lawyers who want to come back to enter the physical hearing find the SOP with relation to entry within the Supreme Court building completely unjustified and humiliating."The resolution came, the next day chief justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana said that physical hearing of the cases may hopefully be commenced after Dussehra's vacation.
Chief justice N. V Ramana said on 26th September that there are chances of commencing full-fledged physical hearings of supreme court after Dusshehra and also said that judges haven't got any problem with resuming the Physical hearings and he also added that "We hope that there are
not any more waves, and shortly, after likely post-Dussehra vacations, we are able to opt for the physical hearing, "CJI Ramana said earlier that "I don't have any issue, even during the pandemic time I was ready... The bulk of the advocates don't seem to be preferring (physical courts) for whatever reason. Senior counsels will have some reservations but young lawyers and other advocates are willing to return. REFERENCES https://theprint.in/judiciary/dont-treat-court-as-wuhan-lab-why-lawyers-are-staying-away-from-physical- hearings-in-sc/728035/ https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/don-t-treat-court-as-wuhan-lab-why-lawyers-are-staying-away- from-physical-hearings-in-sc/ar-AAO8x2b https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/judges-problem-physical-hearing-cases-post-dussehra-resume-cji-nv- ramana-182488 https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/sep/27/physical-hearing-in-sc-should-commence- forthwith-apex-court-bar-body-2364513.html https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/hopeful-of-having-physical-hearings-in-supreme-court- after-dussehra-vacation-cji-nv-ramanad