It stated that an earlier circular prescribing standard operating procedure (SOP) for physical hearing (hybrid hearing) will remain suspended for the time being
The Supreme Court on Sunday decided to conduct all hearings in virtual mode for two weeks starting from 3 January, in view of rising number of cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 .
The Supreme Court administration issued a circular announcing the decision on Sunday evening.
It stated that an earlier circular prescribing standard operating procedure (SOP) for physical hearing (hybrid hearing) will remain suspended for the time being.
“It is hereby notified for the information of the members of the bar, party-in-person and all concerned that keeping in view the rising number of cases of Omicron variant (COVID-19), the competent authority has been pleased to direct that modified Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) notified on October 7, 2021, for physical hearing (hybrid mode) will remain suspended for the present, and all hearings before the courts for a period of two weeks from and with effect from January 3, shall be through virtual mode only,” the circular read.
The top court is reopening on Monday after its winter vacation.
On 7 October, 2021, it had issued an SOP stating matters that require lengthy hearings will be taken up on Wednesdays and Thursdays for physical hearing.
To avoid overcrowding on miscellaneous days like Mondays and Fridays, hearing of cases was done through virtual mode only, and on Tuesdays, it was through a hybrid mode.
The top court has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March 2020 due to the pandemic. The 7 October, 2021 SOP was issued after several bar bodies and lawyers demanded that physical hearings should be resumed immediately as there was a fall in coronavirus cases at that time.
Calcutta HC to function in virtual mode
The Calcutta High Court will function in the virtual mode from January 3 in view of the threat of the imminent third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and alarming rise in the number of coronavirus cases, Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava ordered on Saturday.
The administrative order, which was notified by the high court registrar general, said that hybrid mode of hearing of cases will be allowed only in respect of bail matters where public prosecutors will be allowed to be physically present with case diary and in other matters where government and other advocates are to produce or tender documents in court.
“The Court proceedings shall be through virtual mode only” in view of the threat of the imminent third wave of the Covid pandemic and also the alarming rise in the number of Covid cases, the order said.
It said that trial of suits by witness examination will be suspended.
The same system will be followed in the circuit benches of Jalpaiguri and Andaman and Nicobar Islands and district courts, it said.
After the second wave of the pandemic subsided, hearing of cases had been allowed in the hybrid mode, wherein lawyers were permitted to appear either physically or virtually.
West Bengal, which is witnessing a sudden spurt in COVID-19 cases from the beginning of this week, recorded 3,451 infections on Friday with Kolkata alone accounting for 56 percent of them.
While the state’s fresh infections had shot up by 62 percent since Thursday, the metropolis’ new Covid cases increased by 79 percent.
With inputs from PTI