HC issues fresh SOP for hearings from next week

Restrictions to be imposed on entry; wearing of mask is must

The Delhi High Court has issued a fresh standard operating procedure (SOP) for physical and virtual hearings from next week, which includes tight restrictions on entry into the court blocks, mandatory wearing of mask and adherence to social distancing norms related to COVID-19.

The new SOP which will be implemented from Monday was issued by Delhi High Court Registrar General Manoj Jain.

In an effort to bring down the number of persons visiting the courts, the High Court’s SOP said that entry into the court block for attending physical hearings and videoconference hearings will be restricted to only one advocate accompanied by one junior/intern per party.

Entry will also be permitted to the party-in-person, where such party is pursuing the case himself/herself without any legal assistance, and senior counsel engaged by an advocate.

“No entry into the court blocks shall be permitted to relatives of any party-in-person or litigant,” the SOP said.

Additionally, advocates, parties-in-person and registered clerks above the age of 65 and those suffering from co-morbidities are advised to refrain from appearing in courts. “Persons displaying symptoms of flu, fever, cough etc. shall not be permitted entry into the court complex,” the SOP said.

In terms of arrangements inside the courtroom, in order to ensure strict adherence to the social distancing norms, seats in each courtroom will limited to bare minimum. Entry into the courtroom will be permitted to those advocates or parties-in-person whose matter is called out for hearing and also for the advocates whose item is the immediate next, subject to availability of space. The rest of the advocates will wait outside the courtroom in the designated area for their turn, while maintaining the social distancing norms.

After the imposition of the first nationwide lockdown, the High Court started conducting hearings through videoconferencing on March 24 last year to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the High Court has over time resumed physical hearings of court proceedings. On physical hearing days, the court also permits hybrid/videoconferencing hearings where a request to such effect is made by any of the parties or their counsel.

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