Monday, March 1

Five women lawyers challenge physical hearings in Supreme Court

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Five women lawyers practising at the Delhi high court on Monday moved the Supreme Court, challenging the resumption of physical hearings contending that they were not given the choice to argue cases virtually.

The plea filed by advocates Amrita Sharma, Saumya Tandon, Padmapriya, Ashmita Narula and Shivani Luthra demanded fresh orders which would allow lawyers to select the option of virtual appearance in cases.

The petition stated that lawyers have been discharging their professional duties as well as looking after their children doing home schooling but with the resumption of the physical hearings, the lawyers will be constrained to choose between their work and taking care of their children, or worse be constrained to expose themselves, their children as well as vulnerable members of their families to Covid-19 as there is no other alternative.

It also said that the lawyers cannot effectively represent their clients in virtual hearings while attending courts physically.

From Monday, 11 benches — two division benches of two judges each and nine single-judge benches resumed physical proceedings in the high court. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the court was functioning with physical hearing by two to three benches, on a rotational basis.

The court building on Monday witnessed confusion and chaos briefly when a bunch of lawyers reached the building all at once, gathering around the gate to fill up self-declaration forms. The matter was resolved after the Delhi high court bar association (DHBCA) and the registry stepped in to streamline the process.

Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, president, DHBCA, said they will streamline entry to the building from Tuesday.

“There was a slight crowding at one of the gates due to the confusion in the timings of the hearing. But from tomorrow (Tuesday), we will streamline the entry process and upload the self-declaration forms on the HC website to ensure smooth access,” he said.

The district courts also resumed physical proceedings from Monday. Now, hearings will be held on alternate days with half the courts holding in-person hearings and half conducting business virtually.