The Supreme Court on Monday virtually went into a lockdown in view of the coronavirus epidemic, indefinitely suspending the entry of advocates and other staff in the high security zone on the basis of their proximity cards.
The top court, without specifying any date, said that only one court will sit to take up extremely urgent matters through video conferencing by an app, which will be installed in desktop, laptop or mobile phones.
The top court also directed that the lawyers' chamber and offices will be closed and advised advocates not to attend their respective offices, as no sanitation staffs will be allowed inside.
"The entry into the High Security Zone be further regulated by suspending entry of Learned Advocates on the basis of their proximity no cards, till further orders. The Advocates having offices/chambers in the various Lawyers Chamber Blocks situated in the Supreme Court may be advised against attending their respective offices/chambers, as they would require to be closed due to lack of cleaning and conservancy services, in light of the steps taken pursuant to the Government notification," a circular issued by the top court said.
The top court circular said that benches would be constituted to hear only matters involving extreme urgency, similar to the process done during vacations of apex court.
It said that the court taking up the matters, which are extremely urgent in nature will be heard virtually through video-conferencing on "Vidyo" app and lawyers have been advised to download the app on their desktop/laptop or mobile phone.
The circular also listed out the modalities and issued a standard operating procedure as how the app could be downloaded, how the video-conferencing could be done and how to apply for hearing of the extremely urgent matters.
It said that if the advocate or Party-in-Person is unable to connect through video-conferencing due to non-availability of hardware/network on any given date, then his matter could be taken the next date and he would be required to be present in the video-conference room by indicating in the application their desire to do so.
The top court said to streamline the access to members of the Press. The Deputy Registrar (Public Relations Officer) may permit only three media persons to remain inside the Video-Conference Room, whenever the bench may sit to take up extreme urgent matters, till further orders.
The circular said that the President and the Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCAORA) may authorise entry of any advocate into the high security zone, on their letter heard, scanned and sent to the Registrar (Administration) ahead of the requested time of entry, specifying the area of visit within High Security Zone and the purpose.
Earlier, in the day, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices L N Rao and Surya Kant indicated that the top court has decided to seal the chambers of lawyers in and around its premises and said that only one court would hear "extremely urgent matters" through virtual means.
"We don't want any congregation of lawyers in the premises. One court will be sitting once a week to take up extremely urgent matters that too through virtual means. We will be sharing video link with the lawyers whose case is listed and they can even argue from their chambers or from their home," the bench has said.
The chief justice said he would take a call on a possible shut down or to advance the summer vacations, as demanded by the lawyers' organisations.
The death toll due to the novel 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.
The number of active COVID-19 cases are 424 now and 35 people have been cured/discharged/migrated.
The issue of shutting down the apex court's functioning was raised by the SCBA president and the members of the SCAORA in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
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