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Hybrid hearings will mean a death knell to physical courts : Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court said on Friday that it does not approve of hybrid court hearings, which is a combination of physical and virtual mode of court proceedings, as a permanent feature.

Virtual mode of hearings was started exclusively to meet the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, a Bench led by Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai said. They also held the view that a hybrid system would see only a few lawyers come to court and that they would argue from exotic spots around the world while judges sit in courtrooms.

“The court building cannot remain closed. Physical courts have to start. “We want courts to be opened up to the public… For the past two months we have made physical hearings optional and we have not seen one advocate in court on most of the days. Given an option, people are very comfortable in their offices,” Justice Rao said.

“Besides, how will lawyers argue when in one case they have to physically appear in court and in the other they have to be in a virtual mode? You argue one inside the courtroom and then come out in the corridor and argue there on your mobile?” Justice Rao asked.

The court was hearing a plea filed by the National Federation of Societies For Fast Justice to retain the hybrid option and declare the virtual system of courts a fundamental right as it helps ordinary citizens access courts.

“It is one thing to say that there should be a telecast of the proceedings… It is another thing to say that even after we get rid of COVID hopefully, that this institution should be closed down because virtual hearing is a fundamental right,” Justice Rao said.

The court has however issued notice in the case.

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