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Hybrid hearings can’t be forever: Supreme Court

Physical courts have to start, says Supreme Court judge

October 09, 2021 02:12 am | Updated 02:12 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court said virtual mode of hearings was started exclusively to meet the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.

The Supreme Court said virtual mode of hearings was started exclusively to meet the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.

The Supreme Court on Friday prima facie did not approve of hybrid court hearings, which is a combination of physical and virtual mode of court proceedings, as a permanent feature.

The court said virtual mode of hearings was started exclusively to meet the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.

A hybrid system would see only a few lawyers come to court. A Bench led by Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai said hybrid options would have lawyers argue from exotic spots around the world while judges sit in courtrooms. The court building cannot remain closed. Physical courts have to start.

“We want courts to be opened up to the public... For the past two months we have made physical hearings optional and we have not seen one advocate in court on most of the days. Given an option, people are very comfortable in their offices,” Justice Rao said.

The court said hybrid system would eventually sound the death knell for physical courts. “Besides, how will lawyers argue when in one case they have to physically appear in court and in the other they have to be in a virtual mode? You argue one inside the courtroom and then come out in the corridor and argue there on your mobile?” Justice Rao asked.

The court was hearing a plea filed by the National Federation of Societies For Fast Justice to retain the hybrid option and declare virtual system of courts a fundamental right as it helps ordinary citizens access courts.

The petitioners compared virtual hearing to live streaming.

But Justice Rao said virtual hearings were different from live streaming.

“It is one thing to say that there should be telecast of the proceedings... 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,” Justice Rao distinguished.

The court has however issued notice in the case.

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