COVID-19: SC issues guidelines for video conferencing across courts

The restricted its functioning and conducted all its urgent hearings through video conferencing from 25th March 2020 due to the lockdown in the whole of India.

The Supreme Court passed a slew of directions for all courts across India to use the method of video-conferencing for judicial proceedings due to COVID-19 effects.

The Supreme Court has taken Suo Motu (on its own) by Civil Suo Motu Writ No. 5/2020 for providing the Guidelines to Court for functioning through video conferencing during the COVID-19 Pandemic in cognizance of a letter written by the Senior Advocate and former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Mr. Vikas Singh, suggesting the use of technology for conducting hearings in all the courts across India and exercised its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India by directing all the High Court’s to frame a mechanism to use technology during this pandemic and District Courts in each shall adopt the mode of video-conferencing as prescribed by the concerned High Court.

The Supreme Court found the use of technology as a precedent in the matter of State of Maharashtra vs. Praful Desai and said that the concerned judge must need to ensure that distance is maintained inside the courtroom while recording the evidence in the courts which made it clear that no evidence would be recorded via video-conferencing.

Mr. Vikas Singh told the bench comprising Chief Justice Mr. S A Bobde, Justices Mr. D Y Chandrachud and Mr. L Nageswara Rao that there may be possibility that, lockdown may end on 15th April 2020; but the apex court would have to consider that how the courts would function post lockdown.

Attorney General Mr. K.K. Venugopal said to the bench that, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) must look into an efficient and cheap application that could be used by all lawyers across the country. The Supreme Court asked the Department of Justice and National Informatics Centre (NIC) to look at the problems which the apex court had faced on 3rd April, due to the connectivity issue during court hearing through video-conferencing and held that a tech-friendly system must need to be set up for efficient working during & even after the nationwide lockdown is lifted.

The Director-General of NIC replied to the bench that, there are three things required for video-conferencing:

  1. Good broadband connection,
  2. Good devices and;
  3. Conduct of people

The bench directed courts to duly notify and make available all the facilities for video-conferencing for such litigants who don’t have that means or access of such facilities and ordered the presiding officers of their power to restrict the entry of persons into the courtroom if such party is suffering from any infectious illness.

The Supreme Court also instructed to take all the appropriate steps if the lockdown is not lifted by the government after 14th April 2020.



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