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Usage of phone for virtual hearing not barred, clarifies Supreme Court

On January 17, the CJI had expressed unhappiness over disruptions during virtual hearings due to the use of mobiles

Supreme Court

Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Secretary General of the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the notice asking lawyers and litigants to avoid using mobile phones to attend the virtual court proceedings was a mere advisory and did not bar its usage.
The clarification by Secretary General Virender Kumar Bansal came on a representation made by the Supreme Court Advocates On Record Association (SCORA) to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana to ask the Registry to not insist on a particular kind of equipment or connectivity to join court hearings.
On January 17, the CJI had expressed unhappiness over disruptions during virtual hearings due to the use of mobiles.
Later that day, the apex court registry, through a circular, asked the advocates and litigants to use a desktop or laptop with a stable internet connection to join proceedings conducted through video conferencing.
In reply to SCORA's representation, the Secretary General wrote, Contrary to the concern expressed by you, a careful reading of the notice dated January 17 reveals that it is merely advisory in nature and nowhere in the said advisory it is stated that the usage of mobile phones is barred.
He said the purpose of the advisory was to facilitate smooth functioning of the Court and to avoid inconvenience to all the stakeholders

including the advocates and litigants.
To remove apprehensions in this regard, if any, it is hereby clarified that in case any lawyer does not have desktop/laptop, etc., he/she can attend the proceedings through the mobile phone ensuring that the learned advocate appearing through the mobile phone is properly visible and audible to the Court, Bansal said in a letter to SCORA's Secretary Dr. Joseph Aristotle.
The Secretary General further said that the Chief Justice of India has always been alert to the multifarious hardships being faced by the advocate community and that he highlighted these issues in various public fora urging all concerned to step up to help the needy.
In his communication addressed to the Minister of Law and Justice as early as on June 8, 2021, the CJI, inter-alia, emphasised on the urgent need to augment the network and connectivity across the country and also on the need to extend financial assistance to the advocates who are struggling to make both ends meet, he added.
The same was followed up under directions by the Chief Justice of India through a communication from the Registry to the Ministry very recently, he said, adding that it is hoped that the issues are sorted out at the earliest.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) also on Tuesday had said that Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has assured that lawyers can attend the proceedings through the mobile phone in case they do not have a laptop or desktop.
The Chief Justice of India, however, requested the members of the bar that the mobile phone should be stationed and placed in such a manner that the face of the lawyer is visible and the voice is audible, the SCBA stated in a letter after a virtual meeting with the CJI and four senior-most judges.
The notification dated January 17 had advised the lawyers and litigants to join the virtual proceedings through a single device either a laptop or a desktop.
All advocates, party-in-person must also join the VC hearings preferably using a headset enabled microphone and audio system...Please also close all background applications running on your devices for best VC experience, the notification had read.
The circular was issued after the hearing in as many as 10 cases was to be adjourned by the bench headed by the CJI as the lawyers were either inaudible or invisible or both.
The bench was irked over frequent disruptions as the lawyers or litigants were mostly joining the proceedings through phones using mobile data and even observed that it may have to ban participation through mobiles.
Lawyers are appearing using their mobile phones and are not visible. We may have to ban this mobile business. Mr counsel, you are now practicing in the Supreme Court and appear regularly. Can't you afford to have a desktop to argue, the CJI had observed in one of the cases.
The top court has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March 2020 due to the pandemic and has been relaxing or tightening the conditions from time to time keeping in mind the changing pandemic situation.
The apex court, on January 2, took note of a sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country and decided to hear all matters in virtual mode, and from January 7, the benches are sitting at the residential offices of the judges.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Jan 19 2022 | 8:09 PM IST

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