The Bombay High Court recently directed the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), which deals with pleas related to state government employees, to consider immediately commencing online filing and hearing of cases in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed the order on October 28 while hearing a plea filed by lawyer Yogesh Morbale, through advocates Vinod Sangvikar and Yashodeep Deshmukh, seeking direction to the MAT to “commence on immediate basis” online filing and hearing as well to develop and update its official website to make it user-friendly.
Morbale, in his plea, mentioned that while most courts, tribunals and other adjudicating authorities are functioning on virtual platforms due to the pandemic, MAT has not started video conference hearings and online filing of pleas yet.
The petitioner also referred to HC’s July decision, directing the BMC to provide facilities at its ward offices for hearing appeals filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act through virtual platform.
Morbale, who stays in Kolhapur district, said he was not in position to come personally to file matters before MAT considering “huge risk” entailed by the pandemic and increase in travel costs due to the restrictions imposed.
His plea stated, “All these factors make it practically unfeasible for an advocate like petitioner based away from Mumbai to continue his or her practice, due to lack of online access. Thus, the right to practice the profession of choice is severely impacted not only because of pandemic but also due to apathy/inaction on part of the administration of the MAT in making available infrastructure / facilities for e-filing and video-conference hearings.”
After hearing the submissions, the bench noted that no one appeared for MAT during the hearing. “In the meanwhile, the registrar of MAT shall look into the grievances expressed by the petitioner in this writ petition and submit a report before this court, suggesting measures to ameliorate such grievance,” it said. It will hear the matter next on November 3.
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