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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Supreme Court verbally stated on Friday that virtual hearings cannot become the norm, as they were implemented in response to the extreme crisis caused by the COVID outbreak.
  • The Court further stated that it is one thing to assert that the public has the right to watch court proceedings via live stream, and another to say that they should have the right to "virtual hearings."
  • The above observations were made by a bench of Justices L.Nageswara Rao and B.R.Gavai.

BACKGROUND

  • The court was hearing a writ petition which sought for the hybrid alternatives for physical and virtual hearings in courts to be preserved, claiming that they improved the right to access justice.
  • Ex-IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, RTI activist Shailesh R. Gandhi, and an organisation called "National Federation of Societies for Fast Justice" filed a writ suit seeking "virtual hearing" as a fundamental right.
  • For the petitioners, Senior Advocate Manoj Swarup argued for the continuation of hybrid alternatives for physical and virtual court hearings.
  • Senior Advocate Swarup argued that the hybrid approach should be preserved as part of citizens' access to justice.
  • He said that the current petition was filed on behalf of ordinary citizens, as opposed to prior petitions filed on behalf of jurists and attorneys.

COURT’S OBSERVATION

  • "It is one thing to say that there should be telecast of the proceedings, '' Justice Rao said, “it is another thing to say that even after we get rid of COVID hopefully that this institution should be closed down because virtual hearing is a fundamental right.”
  • In addition, Justice Rao pointed out that live broadcasting of proceedings was a whole separate matter. The practical problems of maintaining the hybrid option were also mentioned by Justice Rao.
  • The Bench authorised Senior Advocate to return after four weeks with proposals on how to establish guidelines for virtual hearings in extraordinary circumstances.
  • This case has been grouped with a previous petition (filed by the All India Association of Jurists) that sought similar remedies.

What are your views on the practice of virtual hearing? Should it be the norm considering the poor connectivity issues faced by people across the country? Share your views in the comments section below.

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