It is the need of the hour to provide adequate Internet speed and routers to facilitate virtual hearings at district courts here so that lawyers, litigants and subordinate judiciary are not inconvenienced, the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad was critical of Delhi government's statement that the two urgent proposals forwarded by the district courts for procuring network storage and routers, essential for conducting virtual courts, have not been cleared as the financial implication was above Rs 1 crore.
The Delhi government said the matter has to be placed before the Council of Ministers for according appropriate sanction.
However, Reetesh Singh, OSD (Examination) and Virender Kumar Bansal, Chairman of Centralised Computer Committee of district courts, informed the high court that the two proposals fall under the head of non-planned expenditure for which funds are already available with the district courts and only a formal approval for spending money on these proposals is required from the Delhi government.
The high court, which was conducting the hearing through video conferencing, sought the presence of the Secretary (Finance) of Delhi Government before it on July 31, to assist the court on this aspect.
We may note that all the pending proposals in question relating to the district courts have been pending at the end of the Delhi Government since the year 2018. It is a different matter that due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation that occurred in March, 2020, courts have had to resort to virtual hearings.
The need of the hour is to provide adequate bandwidth, network attached storage and routers, etc., to facilitate conducting virtual courts. However, lawyers, litigants and the subordinate judiciary are being inconvenienced due to the stand now sought to be taken by the Delhi Government, the bench said.
It also directed that from now on, any correspondence between the District Judge (Headquarters) and the Delhi government shall be preferably conducted electronically to save precious time and to ensure expeditious disposal of pending issues.
The court was informed by Delhi government additional standing counsel Anupam Srivastava that the Law Minister is in the process of preparing a note on the pending proposal for being placed before the Council of Ministers.
The bench directed that this order be brought to the notice of the Law Minister today itself to apprise the Council of Ministers about it.
The court was hearing the petition seeking to enlarge functioning of the courts, particularly family courts, in the prevalent times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plea sought direction to all the family courts to allow recording of evidence via video conferencing during the restricted functioning of courts owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, either by the presiding judge of the family court or by a commission.
Earlier, the high court had sought suggestions from its registrar and various bar associations on the issue of expanding the functioning of family courts in the prevalent times of COVID-19, including for the purpose of recording of evidence through video conferencing (VC).
Presently in the COVID-19 pandemic, the family courts are functioning through video conferencing to a limited extent.
Delhi High Court Bar Association President Mohit Mathur and Secretary Abhijat said that the legal community and the litigants are facing great difficulty in virtually participating in matters before the trial courts.
They submitted that the Delhi government be asked to take expeditious steps to clear the pending to provide seamless hearing in virtual courts.
The court had earlier asked the Delhi government to indicate the time required for making provision to upgrade and enhance the existing leased lines from 34 MBPS to 1GBPS in each district court here to enable smooth hearings through video conferencing and for digitalisation of the court records.
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