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Supreme Court to Begin “Hybrid Physical hearing” from March 15

Supreme Court to Begin “Hybrid Physical hearing” from March 15

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NEW DELHI, Mar 6: The Supreme Court, which is hearing cases through video-conferencing since March last year due to the Cov-19 pandemic, will commence hybrid physical hearing from March 15 as several bar bodies and lawyers have been demanding to resume physical hearings immediately.

The apex court has issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the hybrid physical hearings.

“On an experimental basis, and as a pilot scheme, the final hearings/regular matters listed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays may be heard in the hybrid mode, as may be decided by the bench, considering the number of parties in a matter as well as the limited capacity of the courtrooms; all other matters, including those listed on Mondays and Fridays, shall continue to be heard through video/tele-conferencing mode,” said the SOP issued by the apex court.

The hybrid physical hearings are to commence with effect from March 15, 2021,” it added.

It said unless otherwise directed by a bench, the final hearings or regular matters where the number of lawyers for the parties is higher than the average working capacity of the courtrooms according to Covid-19 norms, that is 20 per courtroom at any given time, shall invariably be listed for hearing through the video or tele-conferencing mode.

“…however, in case the bench directs hearing of such matters to be held through the hybrid mode, the appearance of the parties, whether by physical presence or through video/tele-conferencing, will be facilitated as per the directions of the bench,” the SOP said.

It said if the number of parties is higher than the specified number in a matter listed for hybrid hearing, then one advocate-on-record (AOR) and one arguing counsel per party would be allowed entry.

It said 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.

“In any such matter as may be listed for hybrid hearing, all the counsels appearing for one party can appear either through physical presence or through video/tele-conferencing,” it said.

The SOP said 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 advocate-on-record for a party does not opt for either mode i.e physical or video/tele-conferencing mode, it shall be presumed that counsels for the party seek to appear through video/tele-conferencing mode and will be facilitated accordingly,” it said.

“In case of a matter directed to be listed for hybrid hearing by the bench, none of the parties opts for physical hearing, the matter would be taken up for hearing through video/tele-conferencing,” the SOP said.

It said entry into the high-security zone of the apex court through proximity cards or long-term passes shall be kept suspended till further orders.

(Manas Dasgupta)

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