The Gujarat High Court has held that a uniform mode of proceeding at the Ahmedabad bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) – either virtual or physical – must be followed with appropriate standard operating protocol in place.
The order, dated August 21, by a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala came following the refusal by the court of Justice Umesh Trivedi earlier to entertain a plea that had complained of several acute problems being faced by lawyers in litigating at NCLT owing to a combined format of virtual as well as physical proceedings, especially since virtual proceedings were often faced with technical snags. Justice Trivedi had further imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 for the rejected plea.
The division bench held that if the NCLT wishes to move to physical proceedings, it may but only with the consent of all lawyers appearing in the relevant litigation.
The bench also dissuaded against a mixed approach of some hearings or parties appearing via virtual medium and other hearings or parties heard via physical hearing. In case of lack of consent for physical hearings from lawyers, the proceedings shall have to be conducted over virtual medium.
The HC bench noted, “We would still like to sound a note of caution regarding adopting the mode of physical hearing… What we have been able to gather from the submission of the learned counsel appearing in this matter is that it is dangerous to conduct physical hearing…”