Marking an unusual working day, the Supreme Court did not have any cases to be heard on Thursday.
In view of the COVID-19 outbreak, only ‘urgent’ cases are being heard via video-conference. On Thursday, no cases were listed for urgent hearing.
While all cases listed before the Supreme Court for hearing via video conference on March 25 were cancelled minutes after the lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, no cases were heard on March 26 as well.
“Since the lockdown, hearings take place only when there are urgent cases before the court,” a Supreme Court official said.
On April 15, the court said that it will “hear only matters involving extreme urgency, to be decided by the Hon’ble Presiding Judge of such Bench(es) on the basis of prayer made by Advocate-on-Record/ Party in-person by way of a signed and verified mentioning-application containing a synopsis of extreme urgency not exceeding one page, similar to the urgency affidavit filed during court vacation periods.”
Although there is no rule that specifies what kind of cases are considered urgent, as a practice, cases that intrude on an individual’s liberty including bail hearings, cases in which a person is to be dispossessed, or cases where some irreversible damage could occur if the court does not intervene are considered urgent.
“The court is now functioning as it does during vacation. You explain the urgency and get the matter listed if the judge agrees. Much of it is left to the discretion of the registrar and then the judge,” said former Additional Solicitor General and senior advocate Vikas Singh.
With the high courts also hearing only ‘urgent’ cases, lawyer groups at the Delhi and Allahabad high courts have sought clarity on what constitutes urgency.
In a letter addressed to Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Govind Mathur dated April 12, the Allahabad High Court Bar Association sought clarity on factors that determine urgency in cases.
The Delhi Bar Council has also expressed concern over the lack of clarity on what determines urgency. The Council chairperson, K C Mittal, wrote to Delhi High Court Chief Justice D N Patel that restricting court work to “extremely urgent cases” has “disadvantaged certain classes like undertrials whose cases despite the urgency, could not be taken up.”