IN VIEW of the lockdown in the state due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Bombay High Court on Monday made an appeal to lawyers and litigants not to file non-urgent matters as directed earlier, failing which exemplary costs will be imposed on them.
After observing several non-urgent matters being moved and close to 200 praecipes forwarded for placing matters on Thursday, the court on Monday said despite earlier directions, which prescribed that only urgent matters will be taken up, some lawyers and petitioners were coming to court to mention non-urgent matters and cautioned that the court would impose up to Rs 50,000 on such litigants and lawyers henceforth.
The High Court had earlier directed that it will function for two hours from March 17 until further orders and will take up only extremely urgent matters, hence, had reduced attendance of its staff.
A division bench of Chief Justice Bhushan P Dharmadhikari and Justice A A Sayed was hearing PILs seeking additional measures by the state government in the wake of the outbreak, which has been declared a pandemic by World Health Organization, questioning facilities at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai, where COVID-19 patients were quarantined, and seeking extension for collection of taxes, duties and income tax filings, among others.
Sixteen matters were listed before the bench citing urgency but the judges noticed that there was no urgency in a majority of them and adjourned them. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni and some other lawyers were present in the courtroom when Chief Justice Dharmadhikari asked lawyers across the state to take precautions and not to move around unnecessarily.
The court adjourned the hearing on a PIL alleging lack of facilities at the BMC-run Kasturba Hospital by a week as the petitioner’s lawyer could not turn up. The PIL alleged that the quality of the food was poor at the hospital, and the court was also shown pictures of stray dogs and cats roaming the hospital premises. Advocate Joel Carlos of the BMC said the civic body will list the steps taken for quarantine facilities at Kasturba Hospital.
Moreover, in view of the lockdown in the state, Chief Justice Dharmadhikari issued a circular on Monday through Registrar General S B Agrawal stating that the HC will function with a single judge each for its principal seat in Mumbai and its benches in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Goa for extremely urgent civil and criminal matters on March 26 and March 30 for two hours between noon and 2 pm. The circular also stated that fresh matters of “extremely urgent” nature could be presented to the respective single judge bench.
While Justice S S Shinde will take up urgent criminal matters, Justice K K Tated will deal with urgent civil matters at the principal seat in Mumbai. All praecipes forwarded for placing matters on March 26 stand cancelled.
Last week, Justice Gautam Patel imposed a cost of Rs 15,000 on a petitioner while observing that listing and mentioning the plea was “thoroughly irresponsible” as there was no urgency despite the HC administration’s directions to restrict proceedings only to urgent matters.
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