The Supreme Court has announced its decision to begin hybrid hearings (physical and virtual) on an experimental basis from March 15. The apex court released the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the same on March 6.
As per the SC guidelines for hybrid hearings, only the final hearing or regular matters listed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays will be heard through hybrid mode.
The bench will decide if a case will be listed for hybrid hearing, depending on the number of parties involved in a matter and the capacity of the courtroom.
Unless otherwise directed by a bench, final hearings or regular matters where the number of lawyers for the parties is higher than the average working capacity of the courtrooms as per COVID-19 norms (20 per courtroom), shall be listed for hearing through the video or tele-conferencing.
If the bench lists a matter for hybrid hearing, the appearance of the parties (physical or via video/tele-conferencing) will be facilitated as per the directions of the bench.
If the number of parties is higher than the specified number, then one advocate-on-record (AOR) and one arguing counsel per party would be allowed entry.
Only one registered clerk per party, as may be chosen by the AOR, shall be allowed entry to carry paper-books or journals of lawyers up to the courtrooms.
All counsels appearing for one party can appear either through physical presence or through video/tele-conferencing.
AORs may submit their preferences for appearing before the court either physically or through the video or tele-conferencing mode within 24 hours or by 1 pm the next day after the publication of the weekly list of final hearings or regular matters.
If the AOR does not opt for either mode, it shall be presumed that counsels for the party seek to appear through video/tele-conferencing mode and will be facilitated accordingly.
If none of the parties opts for physical hearing, the matter would be taken up for hearing through video/tele-conferencing.
Entry into the SC’s high-security zone through proximity cards or long-term passes shall be suspended till further orders.
Entry of counsels/parties or such other stakeholders to appear inside courtrooms for hybrid hearings will be through daily ‘special hearing passes’.
Subject to the capacity of a courtroom, the entry of parties in a matter will be permitted not earlier than 10 minutes before the hearing starts on a case.
SC to commence hybrid physical hearing of cases from March 15
Wearing of masks, frequent use of hand sanitiser and maintaining physical-distancing norms will be mandatory for all entrants into the SC premises.
Advocates/counsels having more than one case for hybrid hearings in the courtrooms shall be issued separate special hearing passes for each case. After the hearing of one case is over, they must wait in the designated waiting area(s) before appearing for the next hearing(s).
To facilitate video or tele-conferencing for advocates, a dedicated VC facilitation centre is there in the additional building complex of the apex court.