The Delhi High Court on November 17 said the courts are bound to follow the directions passed by its full court which permitted trial courts to hold hybrid or video conferencing hearings at the request of parties.
A Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh issued notice and sought response of the Delhi Government and High Court on an application claiming that the district courts are not permitting hybrid hearings despite the directions of the full court.
“High Court has already issued directions. They are bound to comply with it,” the Bench said.
The High Court was hearing two petitions by lawyers Anil Kumar Hajelay and Manashwy Jha seeking various prayers including conducting hybrid hearings in district courts on physical hearing days because of the COVID-19 threat.
The fresh application filed by Mr. Hajelay said despite the high court’s directions passed on the administrative side that the district courts shall permit hybrid and video conferencing hearing facilities, the subordinate courts were not complying with it.
The lawyer claimed that even when advocates are making such a request, permission was not being granted by some of the trial court judges.
Delhi Government additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal said that he has also faced similar difficulties.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on November 18.
Advocate Anurag Ahluwalia, who was representing the Delhi High Court, said he would seek instructions in this regard.
The court had earlier said there was an apprehension of a rise in COVID-19 cases and the infrastructure for hybrid hearings in district courts and other quasi-judicial bodies here must be in place.
It had said that it was “rather curious” as to how a “revised estimate” of over ₹79 crore was arrived at by the PWD officials and then forwarded to the Finance Department of the Delhi Government without the involvement of experts from the field of information technology (IT).
It had noted that an earlier estimate of over ₹220 crore, which was submitted by the high court registry to the Delhi Government, was brought down to ₹79.48 crore on account of lowered specifications of the infrastructure proposed to be installed for hybrid hearings.
The court had granted time to the Delhi Government to file a status report in compliance with its earlier order and listed the matter for further hearing on December 13.
The court had earlier sought to know the exact time when the system would be set in place in the trial courts, saying that the purpose of the exercise was to ensure that no inconvenience is caused to advocates and litigants in case a third wave of COVID-19 pandemic comes.
It had made it clear to the Delhi Government that if the proposal to set up infrastructure for hybrid hearings in trial courts and quasi-judicial bodies is turned down on grounds of expenditure, it will examine expenses incurred by it on subsidies and public advertisements from April 2020.
It had also directed the Delhi Government to take expeditious steps to provide proper infrastructure for the purpose and said it was mindful that the authorities incur huge money on subsidies and advertisements.
The court had in March asked its Registrar General to assess the infrastructural requirements at the earliest to facilitate hybrid hearings in the trial court and forward the details to the Delhi Government.