June 5, 2020 11:20:14 pm
A public interest litigation (PIL) has been registered before the Gujarat High Court (HC), after the president of Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association (GHAA) decided to run his own poll on whether courts should function as physical proceedings or virtual proceedings. The matter is likely to be heard next week.
The PIL moved by advocate Amit Panchal, who is appearing as party-in-person, submitted that “the conduct of proceedings through the physical medium or by video-conferencing is a decision that can only be taken by the Honourable Court… This is because the manner of conduct of court proceedings is solely in the domain of the Honourable Court.”
To this effect, Panchal in his petition prayed that the court issue directions for framing of appropriate rules with regard to “proper conduct and discipline” among legal fraternity members.
It has also been submitted that “any resolutions passed by the Bar Association seeking the physical functioning of Courts amounts to an illegal interference with the decision making process of the Court and are liable to be struck down.”
Senior advocate and GHAA president Yatin Oza had circulated an agenda, if court functions may resume physically or virtually, which was put to vote.
The GHAA questionnaire was circulated hours after Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justices RM Chhaya and JB Pardiwala indicated, to the office bearers of GHAA, that a questionnaire will be brought out from the court’s side so that members of the Bar can indicate whether the HC could function normally or through virtual hearings. A window of one week was to be given to advocates to file their response.
However, as per the poll that Oza conducted as GHAA president, “Almost 64% of the Members of the Bar expressed their desire that court should function physically, while 36% expressed their desire for the virtual functioning of the court.” The PIL, however, submits that this was done “in order to influence the decision of the…High Court…, which was already in the process of seeking the opinion of the Learned Members of the Bar.”
Panchal’s PIL has sought that Oza’s issuance of a Google Form to conduct his own polling be declared illegal and “contrary to judicial discipline.” It has also been submitted that the results of the poll has “no legal sanctity,” and in the absence of a General Body Meeting, “an online poll can at best be regarded as informal in nature.”
The past few days have seen a divide within the GHAA with the president first resigning on June 2, followed by withdrawal of his resignation within hours. His decision to resign was owing to his “helplessness in resolving issues of junior advocates who are in dire state.”
Oza has subsequently alleged that only “matters of billionaires (clients) are circulated in no time,” while for matters of other lawyers, circulation from registry to before a bench takes weeks.
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