Several senior lawyers are planning to request the Bombay High Court Chief Justice, Dipankar Datta, to resume physical hearings with regular court working days and timings, while taking precautions against Covid-19.
On May 4, the Bombay High Court had said it would continue its present arrangement of hearing only extremely urgent matters through video conference until further orders in view of the extended lockdown. The court had extended interim orders, which are in operation, passed by it, and subordinate courts in Maharashtra and Goa until June 15. It extended the present arrangement of working until May 19.
In view of the further extension of the lockdown until May 31, six senior counsel Iqbal Chagla, Janak Dwarkadas, Fedun E De Vitre, Navroz Seervai, Darius Khambata, and M P Bharucha are planning to request the court Monday that “access to justice” be reinstated immediately, on the ground that the present curtailed functioning of the court had “imperiled” democratic functioning.
Some senior lawyers had on May 7 requested the Chief Justice for a “hybrid” system with a mix of both video conferencing and physical hearings for those who could not access the virtual court.
Video conferences, through which limited hearings take place now, are periodically disrupted due to connectivity issues. Hearings take place twice a week.
There are concerns in the legal fraternity that continuing with the present system would not only lead to a huge backlog but also the court may not be able to delay with the new filings.
The senior lawyers want the court to hold hearings with full strength with all available judges on all regular court working day and make arrangements for the travel of all relevant staff as public transport remains suspended. They also want the court to consider e-filings.