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Several lawyers oppose full physical hearings from Mar 15, call for hybrid hearings in HC

·2-min read

New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI) Several lawyers on Friday opposed in the Delhi High Court its decision to start holding completely physical courts with virtual proceedings only being held in exceptional cases.

They urged that hybrid hearings, which will have both options, be held instead.

Reasons, like resurgence of COVID-19 cases in various states, appearance of new strains, advanced age and comorbidities of lawyers and their family members and a cleaner environment due to lesser vehicular use, were given before the court in support of holding hybrid hearings.

The submissions were made before Justice Prathiba M Singh who was hearing two pleas -- one by practicing lawyers who are senior citizens suffering from co-morbidities and apprehensive of attending physical hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic and another by a young lawyer seeking deferring of full physical reopening of courts till all advocates are vaccinated.

Some of the other reasons submitted before the court were -- after the first dose of vaccination antibodies are built up only after 6-8 weeks and social distancing is not possible in the courts.

During the hearing, Justice Singh said there were disparate views within the legal community with regard to holding of full physical courts and said that both sides - those in favour of it and those seeking hybrid hearings -- should sit together and come out with a consensus.

The judge asked the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) to hold a meeting on March 1 and thereafter to hear all the stake holders on March 2 on the nature of hearings they seek from the high court.

With regard to adverse orders being passed in the district courts due to non-appearance of lawyers who do not want to attend physical proceedings apprehending COVID-19 infection, the high court said no such orders be passed if advocates do not appear physically.

With these directions, the high court listed the two matters for further hearing on March 4.

The High Court on February 20 had issued a notification saying that from March 15 all its judges would hold physical courts and virtual proceedings can be held in exceptional cases on the request of the lawyers.

It had also said that the district courts would also start holding physical courts everyday from March 15.

Presently, 11 benches of the high court on rotation hold physical courts while the others hold virtual proceedings.

However, some benches of the high court are also conducting hybrid hearings.

The district courts are presently holding physical courts every alternate day. PTI HMP RKS RKS