In order to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Supreme Court will introduce court proceedings vide video conferencing to avoid the 'people to people' contact.
The CJI, Justice SA Bobde called an urgent meeting on Sunday evening to discuss the steps to be taken for the functioning of the courts in the wake of Corona outbreak in the country. He declared that there cannot be a complete shutdown of the courts and as virtual courts are on the verge of commencement, there can only be a possibility of limited shut down at the present instance. He further added that any demand of the bar and bench would be followed by the medical advice drawn in the meeting.
The meeting was attended by:
Justices Arun Mishra, U.U. Lalit., Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao.
Several prominent doctors of the country like Dr. Randeep Guleria from AIIMS, Dr. Balram Bhargava from ICMR along with other important Doctors who head different hospitals like Fortis, Apollo and Medanta etc. also attended the meeting.
The President, Vice President and Secretary of both SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) and SCAORA (Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association) were also present.
What Is E-Proceeding?
E- Proceeding is an electronic platform for conducting proceedings in an end to end manner. It was originally created by the Income Tax department.
The objective was to bring about transparency and efficiency in the income tax related proceedings. However, considering the apparent situation, in order to avoid 'people to people' contact, it's use shall not be limited to Income Tax matters merely!
Implications of E-Proceedings :
It’s merely a step towards saving us from corona but a huge environment friendly step!
A tree produces 8,333 sheets of paper while it takes 10 liters of water to create a piece of paper.
Considering approximately 61,520 cases(yearly) in the SC with only two parties per case, eight sets of files would be required--four for the court and one each for the parties and their counsel. If each petition is of 100 pages, a minimum of 1600 papers would be required by a single party.
A Glance At Amount of Paper and Water Usage By Supreme Court :
It is considered that there are approximately 24 cases in a day in Supreme Court.
For 14 days :336 cases
Each petition: 100 pages (approximately)
Paper used by each party : 1600
Paper used in each day (24 cases) = 38, 400
Paper usage for 14 days (336 cases) = 5,37,600
A tree produces = 8,333 sheets of paper
It takes =10 liters of water to create a piece of paper.
Trees used for making 5,37,600 sheets of paper = 65 trees (approximately)
Amount of water required to produce 5,37,600 sheets of paper = 53,760 liters of water
E-proceedings for merely 14 days can save 5,37,600 sheets of paper and approximately 65 trees. Along with 53760 liters of water.
What If E-Proceedings Become A Permanent Method?
It would help us saving9,84,32,000sheets of paper. Along with11,813 (approximately) trees and 98,43,200 liters of water annually!
In Order To Combat COVID-19, Supreme Court's E-Committee Chairman, Justice DY Chandrachud, Assured :
- Very soon the 'people to people' contact will be reduced by introducing court proceedings vide video conference.
- Separate rooms for the counsel for each of the parties will be made available in the Supreme Court Premises.
- Any lawyer has to only download a simple application and activate court proceedings vide video conference, that can be conducted from his office.
- That once, the court proceedings commence vide video conference, there would be smart televisions in both the press lounge for the convenience of the journalists.
- That e-filings can be made any time of the day i.e : 24/7.
- The court proceedings and filing procedures will soon go digital and paperless.
- That SCAORA will be consulted before the launch of the virtual court rooms and e-filings.
A common medical advice issued by the Medical Experts in the meeting are as follows :
A declaration ought to obtained by all the persons seeking entry to the Court stating :
- Whether the person has travelled overseas especially to any of the notified countries? (and in case of the person having visited any of the notified countries he/she should not be allowed any access to the Court).
- Whether the person has any cough or cold for last one or two days?
- Whether the person has anybody in his close contact of any infected person?
The aforesaid declaration forms should be filled by all entrants in the entry level.
- To request and encourage people with symptoms to self restrain and not attend Court.
- To publish awareness of respiratory etiquette vide posters in the premises of the Court and also publicize the same vide social media.
- To install/deploy thermal scan at the entry level. Further that, masks may not be effective as proper masks are used in the right and proper manner by medical staff dealing with patients.
- To ensure availability of sanitizer in all Court Rooms, Corridors, toilets etc.
- To appreciate and maintain minimum distance between individuals. Overcrowding to be restrained.
- To promote hand wash with liquid soap as not many people have proper knowledge of the right manner to wash hands with sanitizer.
- To install hand driers and stop using of paper napkins/tissues in toilets.
- To educate and promote the eight proper steps of hand wash.
The Chief Justice has suggested that both the SCBA and SCAORA should ensure that :
Proper communications are to be made with the members of the bar with regard to the awareness of self discipline and also motivate the members (in case of symptoms) to disclose and self restrain from attending courts.
- To deploy volunteers in Court halls and encourage the members to keep distance and request the lawyers to leave the premises as soon as their matter concludes.
- Members of the bar to be prepared to accept, encourage and promote E-filing and video conference of court halls, which will commence shortly.
- The Judges have also assured that no adverse orders will be passed and adjournments will be granted leniently.