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Coronavirus: Courts in Delhi restricts functioning, only urgent matters to be heard virtually

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the courts in the national capital have virtually gone into shutdown as the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on Monday decided to hear only matters of "extreme urgency" through video-conferencing.

While the apex court decided that bench may be constituted to hear only "matters involving extreme urgency" which would be decided by the presiding judge, the high court suspended its functioning as well as of the district courts here till April 4 in view of the coronavirus threat.

"The bench(es) may be constituted to hear only matters involving extreme urgency, to be decided by the presiding judge of such bench(es) on the basis of prayer made by Advocate-on-Record (AoR)/party-in-person by way of a signed and verified application containing a synopsis of extreme urgency not exceeding one page, similar to urgency affidavit filed during court vacation periods," a circular issued by the apex court said.

"The application must also contain a separate paragraph giving consent that the matter may be taken up through the video-conferencing mode. In the application, the AOR/party-in-person must specify as to whether he would link through own desktop/mobile or would prefer to appear at such facility in the Supreme Court premises," the circular said.

Similarly, the high court said that matters of extreme urgency will have to be mentioned before the registrar or joint registrar and thereafter, it will be listed and heard by the bench concerned through video-conferencing.

This arrangement has been made in the high court till April 4.

The decision of the high court, taken by an eight-judge committee, was communicated in a notification issued by the high court's registrar general.

"The functioning of this court as well as the courts subordinate thereto is hereby suspended till April 4, 2020," the notification issued by the high court administration said.

Regarding the functioning of trial courts in Delhi, the high court has directed the district and sessions judges to prepare a roaster of judicial officers for dealing with remand proceedings related to fresh arrests.

In the circular issued by the apex court administration, it has been directed that "entry into the high security zone be further regulated by suspending entry of advocates on the basis of their proximity cards, till further orders".

"The Registry would keep only such offices open with skeletal staff as may be required to facilitate the holding of the bench for extreme urgent cases or as directed from time to time, and for facilitating all matters that may be connected to smoothly holding of such bench, by video-conferencing or otherwise," the circular said.

Earlier in the day, lawyers' bodies of the apex court -- Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) -- have said that a decision was taken to "shut down" the top court premises with immediate effect and hearing in urgent matters would take place only through video-conferencing.

The SCBA and SCAORA have said that decision was taken at a meeting of justices L Nageswara Rao, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose with office bearers of these two lawyers' bodies.

The death toll due to the coronavirus pandemic rose to nine on Monday after West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported a casualty each, while the number of confirmed cases soared to 468, the Union Health Ministry said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, March 23 2020. 22:48 IST