All HC judges to hold physical court hearings from March 15

The Delhi High Court on Saturday issued an office order stating all its judges would hold physical hearing of cases from March 15.

The existing system under which only 11 Benches, including two Division Benches of two judges each and nine single-judge Benches, hear matters via physical mode will continue till March 12, the court said.

“The full court is pleased to order that the existing system of hearing the matters shall continue up to March 12, 2021,” the office order issued by Registrar General Manoj Jain stated.

“It has further been ordered that all Benches of this court shall hold physical courts on a daily basis with effect from March 15, 2021, and shall continue to take up the matters as per the existing arrangement of listing,” it also stated.

In exceptional cases, according to the order, the court might permit any of the parties and/or their lawyers to join the proceedings through video conferencing, subject to the availability of requisite infrastructure.

Currently, some courts hold hybrid proceedings where lawyers and involved parties have the option to attend the hearing via videoconference instead of an appearance in person.

Pending matters

According to the order, all pending routine or non-urgent matters listed before it from February 22 to March 26 would be adjourned en bloc to dates between April 15 and May 20.

It also urged advocates, litigants and other visitors to the High Court to “strictly adhere to norms of social distancing and other COVID-19 related guidelines.”

On January 14, the court had decided to increase the number of judges who would be hearing cases physically from January 18 onwards, “in view of the decline in the intensity of spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Delhi”.

Prior to January 18, only two to three Benches were holding physical courts daily on a rotation basis. On March 25 last year, the High Court had restricted its functioning as well as that of the district courts till April 14, 2020, which was later extended from time to time till January 16, 2021.

On August 27, 2020, the High Court decided to partially resume physical hearing of matters from September 1, 2020 by two Division Benches and three single-judge Benches on a rotation basis. The number of Benches was later scaled down to one Division Bench and two single-judge Benches in view of the rise in COVID-19 cases, and a majority of the lawyers indicating their preference for virtual hearings.

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