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No "virtual hearings" via video conferencing post COVID-19 lockdown: BCI urges CJI

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Bar Council of India (BCI) has written to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde voicing reservations about the practice of "virtual hearings" via video conferencing and sought an end to the process when COVID-19 lockdown is lifted, saying that 90 per cent of lawyers and judges are unaware about the technology and its nuances.
The BCI, the apex body of lawyers regulating the legal profession, also said the biggest impediment of legal profession is the lack of proper infrastructure and technical education, which will always come in the way of practice of law through video conferencing and that virtual court rooms may undermine Judicial transparency.
The Supreme Court, high courts and many lower courts have been functioning via video conferencing for over a month after countrywide lockdown was imposed in the wake of corona virus pandemic.
BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, in his letter to CJI, said, if such practice is encouraged and allowed to continue, there is not an iota of doubt that more than 95 per cent of the advocates of the country will become brief less and work less and the practice of law will be confined to a limited group of lawyers and justice delivery would be badly affected.
"I can emphatically say that 90 per cent of Advocates and Judges through out the length and breadth of the country are themselves unaware about technology and about its nuances, may be some of them could learn after proper training and may be some of them would still find it a difficult task even with training to make themselves self sufficient in this regard," Mishra said in his letter.
Claiming that 90 per cent of the advocates and judges across India are not aware of the technology and its nuances, Mishra said the propaganda being manifested by many eminent lawyers and Judges regarding digitalization of court work and continuation of conducting hearings through video conferencing even after expiry of the lockdown period should be done away with.
"People sitting on elevated chairs seem to be, probably, far away from the ground realities and that is why they are harbouring and advocating such thoughts. They have perhaps forgotten the resources and technology or rather lack of it available on a wider spectrum here in India, though our capabilities are wide and far reaching.
"However, practically, India is a vast and diverse country, where there is often a yawning gap between the resources and the technologies available in metro cities, as compared to other urban areas, and rural areas. Even in urban cities, there are both more developed cities and less developed cities," Mishra wrote.
He said that extending the practice of virtual hearing beyond the lockdown would be impractical as there is humongous differences in the technical knowhow of persons across the country.

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First Published: Apr 29 2020 | 8:27 PM IST

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