Chief Justice DY Chandrachud Pulls Up Judges at Bombay HC for Doing Away with Virtual Hearings
Moneylife Digital Team 09 October 2023
Expressing strong disapproval over judges at the Bombay High Court (HC) doing away with video conference (virtual) hearings or hybrid mode hearings, chief justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, asked why, apart from justice Gautam Patel, no one else is using the virtual mode for hearing at the HC, say media reports. The apex court has asked all the 25 high courts to collaborate with states to put in place, in two weeks, the virtual mode of hearing cases for the benefit of lawyers and litigants.
 
"Now, in Bombay HC, you have disbanded the infrastructure, and the infrastructure has been disbanded. This is my parent high court, and I am distressed to say that hybrid is done away with. How many courtrooms have hybrid hearings apart from Justice Patel?" C'JI asked.
 
Identifying Allahabad HC as 'the complete offender' and Bombay HC as 'regressive' in their approach towards marrying judicial functioning with technology, a report from Times of India (ToI) says the bench of CJI Chandrachud, and justice JB Pardiwala and justice Manoj Misra asked, "Why the high court judges are so reticent about using technology when the SC judges have voluntarily taken lessons in use of technology to conduct court proceedings on paperless e-platforms?"
 
Quoting CJI Chandrachud, a report from Bar and Bench says, "The question is not whether a judge is tech-friendly or not. If you have to be a judge, you have to be tech-friendly. If you want to be a judge in this country, you must know technology, and every judge needs to be trained. Even Supreme Court judges have been trained in training centres. Justice Ravindra Bhat has handled those teams."
 
Justice Chandrachud also cited complaints received from lawyers from HCs that technology is not being used in hearings. 
 
The bench was hearing a petition filed by one Sarvesh Mathur alleging that the Punjab and Haryana HC completely stopped using video conferencing for hearings.
 
The bench also directed the national company law appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and national company law tribunal (NCLT) to start holding hybrid hearings, within four weeks, for the benefit of litigants and members of the bar. 
 
The apex court ordered to convene a joint meeting between the president of NCLAT and officials of Union ministry of finance (MoF) along with the Union ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) to sort out all issues, including availability of funds by the Union government.
 
Likewise, the bench ordered that a meeting will be held by Union government officials with the chairperson of NCLT to make sure that hybrid hearings are made available in NCLT at the option of appearing lawyers or litigants. (Read: SC directs NCLAT and NCLT to start hybrid hearings within 4 weeks)
 
On 15 September 2023, the SC had issued notice to the registrar general of all high courts and other tribunals after a public interest litigation (PIL) claimed that hybrid hearings had been completely abandoned after  the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Earlier this year, the CJI had urged all high courts to continue with the hybrid mode of hearing.
 
In February 2023, CJI Chandrachud expressed his displeasure at the attitude of certain HC chief justices who disbanded the technological infrastructure created by using public money.
 
He says they cannot just switch off the cameras and microphones and insist on the physical presence of lawyers and litigants.
 
The SC has also been hearing a batch of petitions seeking a declaration that a virtual hearing is a fundamental right of a litigant.
Comments
Uday Thakurdesai
6 months ago
It is not just virtual hearings that are both, facilitated and necessitated by technology. Every aspect of the court functioning is affected. Of late, judges in co-operative and district courts are not pronouncing judgments as there is an acute shortage of stenographers. Has anyone heard of youngsters learning shorthand in the current age? Unfortunately, it appears our judges have not learnt to either type out the judgments themselves or dictate them for their ultimate conversion from voice into text. Sincerely hope the CJI takes a serious look at this issue in totality and does not limit himself only to virtual hearings.
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