Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, the Bombay Bar Association has written to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Dipankar Datta, to permit virtual hearings before the principal bench of the court.
In a letter written on Saturday, the BBA urged the Chief Justice to conduct hearings through a video conferencing interface, or, to at least permit a hybrid system of physical and virtual hearings to control crowds in courtrooms.
After the nationwide lockdown imposed in March last year, all benches of Bombay HC had stopped physical hearings, and hearings were being conducted in 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 video-conferencing where the lawyers or parties are not based in Mumbai.
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Earlier this month, the Nagpur and Aurangabad benches of Bombay HC reverted to online hearings due to the spike in COVID-19 cases. The BBA representation, made through its president Nitin Thakker, made a reference to the night curfew beginning in the city from March 28 in view of the "seriousness of the pandemic".
"A large number of advocates have tested positive for COVID-19. We have been given to understand that a number of court staff and some of the judges have also been infected," the Association said in its letter. "Despite this, the crowd in the courtroom and the high density of people attending the court continues. In some of the courts, due to very heavy assignment and small rooms, lawyers virtually stand shoulder to shoulder," the letter added.
It said, from a public health point of view, the congregation of such a large number of people within court premises will inevitably lead to further spread of COVID 19 across the city.