Virtual hearings. It is something that no one had ever imagined. But these turned out to be the high point of the Chandigarh Courts in the Year of Covid. After a long hiatus caused by the lockdown when physical distancing became the norm, the courts warmed up to the idea of hearings online.
As the year passed by, many a crucial case was heard and decided on Cisco Webex and WhatsApp.
From bail matters to final orders, Chandigarh courts have been doing it through e-hearings via video conferencing. While the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the Chandigarh District Court prefer the Cisco Webex platform, the district courts have been hearing cases via WhatsApp video calls too.
Here is a quick recap of the cases that hogged the limelight in 2020.
The case of UT Inspector Jaswinder Kaur, Manimajra SHO, who was booked by CBI on graft charges on June 29 following a trap on accused Bhagwan Singh, grabbed the city’s eyeballs. Kaur was charged after Bhagwan Singh was caught red-handed while allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh on her behalf. Kaur absconded after the FIR, and moved applications for anticipatory bail at the district court and High Court, which were dismissed. She finally surrendered in the Court on July 25, and was granted bail by the CBI Court on September 15.
Sippy Sidhu murder case came to the fore at the fag end of the year when after four years of investigation in the murder case of Sukmandeep Singh (Sippy) Sidhu, CBI submitted an ‘untraced report’ in the special CBI court of Chandigarh. The court has now asked the CBI to further clarify the documents and asked whether it was a final report, an untraced report or a simple status report. CBI is likely to file a fresh report in January, 2021.
But before the pandemic hit the city, one case that caused much consternation among the residents was the dispute relating to the Sukhna catchment area. In a significant order in the Sukhna case, a division bench pronounced an order in March 2020, declaring constructions in the catchment area “as delineated in the map prepared by the Survey of India on 21.9.2004” as illegal. It also imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore each on Punjab and Haryana for “allowing with impunity” construction in the catchment area of the Sukhna Lake falling in their jurisdiction. The order was challenged again before the High Court, wherein a stay has been granted on the demolition, and cost imposed on the two States.
In July, the High Court came to the rescue of a layer running from pillar to post to get his painted car registered when it ruled that authorities could not decline registration merely for the reason that there was art work on its body, and directed the Chandigarh Administration to register a multicolour Ambassador Grand Harit-C-1800 within a period of two weeks.
Another important matter before the court this year pertained to the school fees. The Independent School Association along with seven other private schools of Chandigarh moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court with regard to the Chandigarh administration order directing the private schools to reschedule the last date for depositing fees for the session 2020-21.
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