The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), which deals with pleas of state government employees, told the Bombay High Court last week that its principal seat in Mumbai and benches at Nagpur and Aurangabad could not conduct hearings through video conferencing during the Covid-19 lockdown due to “very old and non-functional” computers and lack of technical manpower.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni, on October 28, had directed the MAT to consider a request by advocate Yogesh Morbale to commence online filing and hearing of cases in view of the Covid-19 situation and provide a report on measures to ameliorate such grievances.
In his petition, filed through advocates Vinod Sangvikar and Yashodeep Deshmuk, Morbale has said that he had been stuck at his native place in Kolhapur and was not in position to come personally to file matters before MAT considering “huge risk” entailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and increase in travel costs due to the restrictions imposed.
In a report submitted to the HC on November 3, MAT Registrar Suresh Joshi said that most of the computers being used at MAT were purchased between 2007 and 2014. “At present, almost 25 computers are very old and non-functional when it comes to hearing of matters through video conferencing,” Joshi said.
He added that the tribunal lacked the manpower to conduct video conferences and that at least two technical persons were required at Mumbai and one each at its benches. “Due to lack of proper infrastructure required for e-courts, the tribunal is facing a lot of difficulties in conducting hearings through video conferencing and filing through e-courts,” the MAT said.
The report said MAT benches worked twice a week during the lockdown and heard 1,632 cases, along with several other urgent matters, while disposing 599 cases. It added that the chairperson of the tribunal and its members were not provided with laptops and computers and that it had submitted a proposal on October 15 seeking sanction of the same along with printers and big screens for video conferencing.
The tribunal has a sanctioned strength of a chairperson, three vice-chairpersons and five members. In its report, the MAT said the posts of three members – one each in Mumbai, Nagpur and Aurangabad – were vacant and two of the three vice-chairpersons are due to retire on November 17, 2020 and January 22, 2021.
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