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Coronavirus: SC cancels benches, only urgent cases hearing through video-conferencing


New Delhi, Mar 22: To ensure social distancing amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and lockdown in the national capital, the Supreme Court Sunday decided to restrict its functioning and hear the matters on Monday only in one court through video conference.

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In a circular issued late Sunday evening, the top court cancelled the scheduled hearing in courts 2, 8 and 14 and said that from Wednesday only one bench of two judges will take up for hearing in only urgent matters through video conference.

As per the cause list uploaded by the apex court on its website, a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice D Y Chandrachud will be taking up three matters through video conference in which the advocates have been requested to address the court from a different room, while the judges will be sitting in court one.

Later in the day, the apex court issued a circular which said that the Chief Justice of India, after consulting his colleagues, has directed that during the course of the ensuing week, a bench of two judges, "as may be necessary to hear extremely urgent cases, will be available to transact judicial work."

"A Bench will be available for court work on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and the Cause list will be notified on the day previous to the hearing. The hearing may be conducted through video conferencing mode. Rooms with requisite facilities for this purpose in the Supreme Court premises are being made available for the convenience of the members of the Bar," said the circular, issued by apex court secretary general Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar.

Last week, the CJI had said that video conferencing facility will be set up to hear the matters within a week and smart TVs will be installed for the media to cover the cases to dissuade them from entering the court rooms.

Lawyers' body Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCOARA) said that considering the outbreak of the pandemic Coronavirus and in view of the Delhi government notification dated March 22, by which there has been a total lock down in Delhi till March 31, it was resolved that members will not be appearing in the Court till April 4.

"The borders have been shut down and members commuting from Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Noida will not be able to reach the Court. Further public transports like Delhi Metro have also been shut down in the best interests of the citizens," the resolution of SCAORA said.

On Saturday, both the lawyers' bodies - SCBA and SCAORA - requested the CJI to prepone the summer vacation in the top court by declaring holidays for two to four weeks in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

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