After 6 months, Supreme Court likely to begin physical hearings in some benches from next week

After 6 months, Supreme Court likely to begin physical hearings in some benches from next week

 A committee of seven Supreme Court judges is learned to have recommended holding physical hearings in at least two or three of the 15 benches in the apex court as early as next week with some additional safety measures.

The apex court, since 25 March, has been holding hearings through video conferencing due to a nationwide lockdown, and even after the restrictions were relaxed, it has decided to continue with the practice.

In the last week of July, the 7- judge panel headed by senior-most judge Justice NV Ramana had apprised the bar leaders of its decision to not open the apex court for physical hearings "for the time being" and had assured to meet them again after two weeks to reconsider the issue.

Now, Shivaji M Jadhav, President of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), said that the judges' committee met Bar leaders on Tuesday and "is seriously considering to start at least 2-3 physical courts from the next week".

Jadhav said in the meantime, the apex court's registry would take necessary steps to prepare the courts for physical functioning.

Sources said that the judges' panel would give its commendations to Chief Justice SA Bobde for necessary action.

The panel, evaluating the court's opening, told leaders of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the SCAORA that at least three courts may start holding physical hearings on a trial basis and this will be in addition to the virtual court hearings already in place, they said.

"I may also add that the physical courts are in addition to virtual courts and people would have the option to do virtual hearing as well. Matters from the final hearing list published before the lockdown would be listed before the physical courts.

The final decision would be taken by the judges' committee in a day or two," the SCAORA President said.

The judges' panel has met leaders such as Bar Council Chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra, Supreme Court Bar Association President Dushyant Dave, and Shivaji Jadhav on the issue of resumption of physical hearings in Supreme Court.

Bar leaders have been demanding the start of the physical hearings as soon as possible while continuing with virtual court hearings with an improved system for limited types of matters.

Justices Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohington Nariman, UU Lalit, A M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and LN Rao are part of the committee set up by the CJI to look into the issue of resumption of physical hearings in the top court again.

In June and July, the committee of judges had not agreed to the demands of bar bodies including SCBA to resume regular courtroom hearings for the time being and would review the functioning of the Supreme Court later.