The Calcutta High Court has decided to resume physical hearing of cases on a small scale and on an experimental basis from June 11 following months of restricted functioning amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
A notification issued to this effect also charts out the manner and days on which the Bench will sit and way in which cases will be taken up. The guidelines issued in these respects including the following.
- In the coming week, the physical court sittings shall be on Thursday. For the subsequent week, the physical courts shall be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Based on the two-week physical sitting of Court, further course of action shall be decided.
- New matters shall be taken up only upon a due representation of the parties likely to be affected by any order.
- It was further informed that video hearing of bail matters would be taken up every working day since there are a number of urgent bail matters filed during the lockdown period that remain pending.
- On the point of working of the Physical Courts, it is stated that every Bench will indicate a cluster of matters that will be taken up in Courts in every hour of sitting. This is to ensure certainty of matters and that a limited number of lawyers stay in Court.
- Apart from the Judges on the Bench, three Court staffwill be present in every Courtroom at all times. No more than eight lawyers and litigants will be allowed entry into any Courtroom.
- There will be a distinct gap of about two minutes between the completion of a matter and the beginning of the next to allow changeover of the personnel appearing. If the designated courtrooms permit, there will be different entry and exit gates.
- Social distancing norms shall be maintained in the Bar Rooms and the library room shall be occupied only by 25 percent of its maximum capacity.
- Two bail benches shall continue on the video platform but with increased frequency than at present. In addition, a Single Bench for bail matters will be set up via video conference. All such benches will only take up petitions and applications filed on the ground of urgency.
- Two-division benches and three single benches shall sit on alternate days to take up other urgent matters which are mentioned in advance and are directed to be included in the list. The matters that will be taken up by these Benches have been detailed in the notification.
- The Chief Justice’s bench will take up PILsand all other matters to be taken up by a Division Bench as may be determined by the Chief Justice.
- The Chief Justice’s bench may take up matters on video conference or in physical manner or a combination of both.
Filing of cases
- All new matters filed for being taken up by the physical process will have to be stamped, punched and filed in the usual manner while maintaining distancing norms.
- There will be four filing counters on the Appellate side and two counters for filing on the Original Side.
- Crowding will not be permitted at the filling counters, the oath commissioners’ office and certified copy sections.
- Queues should be maintained by following distancing norms and designated circles would be put in place on the floor.
- Filing of urgent bail matters to be taken up by the court through VC, shall continue to be through Email i.e, email@example.com at present
COVID-19 Protocol in Courts
- Every advocate entering the Court premises should wear mask, practise social distancing and maintain hygiene.
- Liquid soap or equivalent to be kept in dispensers in all washrooms open to lawyers and staff of the Court.
- Temperature guns and such other measures as may be necessary at the entry points will have to be in place.
- At every gate, temperatures will be checked and those running an impermissible temperature will not be allowed access to Courts.
- Every person entering Court shall carry personal hand sanitizers as well.
The notice goes on to caution that if the distancing and hygiene advisories are not adequately met, then the Chief Justice may be stop the physical functioning of Court.
During the limited physical functioning of Courts, the litigants who are not appearing in person or who have not been directed to appear before any Court will not be allowed to enter Court premises.
In line with the Bar Council of India’s directions, the notification adds that advocates need not wear robes and gowns until further orders.