February 26, 2021 8:46:32 pm
More than 750 lawyers practicing in the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), including several senior advocates, have sought withdrawal of the tribunal’s February 23 order, which directed to commence physical hearings from March 1.
The lawyers have written to the acting president of the NCLT, BSV Prakash Kumar, to exclude the Mumbai bench from initiating physical hearings in view of the current spike in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai and across Maharashtra.
The NCLT had issued an order on February 23 to initiate physical hearings in all its benches across the country. “In case any counsel/representative of the party expresses difficulty in physical hearing, he/she may be permitted for virtual hearing,” said the order.
However, a letter by Mumbai-based lawyers, dated February 25, stated, “A resurgence/ second wave has been seen across Maharashtra. Reports suggest that in the last two days, there have been more than 130 deaths across the state, out of which 80 were reported on a single day — February 24. In the face of this growth in the number of cases, the risk of transmission of the virus in courts to judges, lawyers, court staff, members of the registry, clerks, etc., is a real threat (sic).”
The lawyers further said that most judges and senior lawyers who practice in the NCLT are above the age of 50, have varying comorbidities and fall under the category of vulnerable patients at fatal risk in case they contract Covid-19.
The lawyers argued that the Mumbai bench of the NCLT in Cuffe Parade has “extremely narrow” corridors which did not suffice as a waiting area even in pre-Covid times, leading to litigants, lawyers and staffers overcrowding the area. The corridors do not have any windows for ventilation unlike the High Court premises, the letter added.
The lawyers requested the acting president of the NCLT to withdraw the February 23 order with respect to the functioning of Mumbai benches of the NCLT.
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