Limit video conferencing hearings during COVID-19: SCBA

Bar association against video conferencing becoming new normal, says it must be limited to COVID-19 crisis

The Supreme Court. Credit: PTI File Photo

About a month after the top court introduced hearing through video conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court Bar Association has said that this must be limited to the current crisis. It should not become the 'new normal' and should not replace 'open court hearing'.

The lawyers’ body also asked the Supreme Court to ensure live streaming of the hearings be introduced in the spirit of the judgement delivered in the Swapnil Tripathi case (2018).

"Once the lockdown is lifted and once the Ministry of Health permits, open court hearing should commence with social distancing and crowd management measures being made mandatory inside the court premises. Live streaming as well as daily transcription of court proceedings should be continued along with open court hearing," it said.

The SCBA also cited a nine-judge bench judgement in the Naresh Shridhar Mirajekar case (1966) stating public trial in open court is undoubtedly essential for healthy, objective and fair administration of justice.

It also quoted Bentham who said, "Where there is no publicity, there is no justice. Publicity is the soul of justice."

On April 6, the top court, by a judicial order, authorised all courts to adopt measures required to ensure robust functioning of the judicial system through the use of video conferencing technologies in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It had then said, court hearings in congregation must necessarily become an exception during this period of lockdown imposed since March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus.