Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the functioning of physical courts has been suspended. From bail matter to final orders, the Chandigarh courts are opting for e-hearings via video conferencing on Cisco Webex and WhatsApp. However, city advocates have not found the platforms convenient and would rather prefer physical appearance.
As per the procedure of courts, when the petitions are filed at the Chandigarh district court, the petitioner and the defense counsel advocate’s phone numbers are mentioned on the petition. On the day of hearing, the court staff takes the Judicial Officer, Prosecution Counsel, and the defense counsel on the video conference call. The arguments are thus heard over video calls, and the decision is also pronounced in the same manner.
A court official said that even the accused can join the proceedings in his case, if they desire to, but only after the defense counsel apprise the court about it.
When asked about how e-hearings are conducted in courts, Public Prosecutor, Kanwar Pal Singh, said that the arguments have been going on swiftly on WhatsApp and that there have been no glitches in the process.
However, a senior advocate of Chandigarh, Rabindra Pandit, differed saying that the medium is not suitable for long arguments as several observations to be made during proceedings, and citations of judgements to be presented before the Judicial Officer, becomes difficult through a video call.
Physical presence in courts is more convincing said AS Sukhija, another senior advocate. He added that the courts should start operating normally and advocates can follow social distancing rules in court rooms. Advocate NK Nanda, President DBA Chandigarh, said, although video conferencing is need of the hour, it is not convenient, as they are often plagued with several glitches, including network issues.
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