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Regulatory Updates

04-May-2020

Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s directions dated 6 April 2020, several High Courts have issued directions and guidelines regarding the conduct of hearings via videoconferencing (VC) (VC Hearings) for themselves as well their subordinate courts. Until recently, the preferred platform for conducting court proceedings appeared to be ‘Zoom’. However, following the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ advisory dated 12 April 2020 declaring ‘Zoom’ as unsafe (MHA Advisory), certain High Courts have opted to discontinue the use of ‘Zoom’.

On 12 April 2020, the Uttarakhand High Court issued directions[1] regarding conduct of work in subordinate courts including directions for VC Hearings.

On 13 April 2020, the Delhi High Court notified[2] that the High Court and subordinate courts shall remain functional during June 2020 (ie during the courts’ summer vacations) to make up for disruption caused by COVID-19. On the same day, the Uttarakhand High Court published Standard Operating Procedures[3] (SOP) for VC Hearings in the High Court as well as in subordinate courts. Separately, since the Kerala High Court’s summer vacation commenced on 13 April 2020, directions[4] were issued for VC Hearings by vacation benches.

On 14 April 2020, the Meghalaya High Court issued guidelines[5] for e-filing and VC Hearings while the Jharkhand High Court issued further directions[6] regarding VC Hearings. Further, the Rajasthan High Court directed that the High Court shall conduct hearings via ‘Jitsi Meet’[7] while subordinate courts/special courts/tribunals shall use Vidyo/Whatsapp/Skype[8]. Additionally, the Allahabad High Court notified[9] certain changes to earlier instructions regarding taking up of urgent matters by the High Court during COVID-19 lockdown.

On 15 April 2020, the Supreme Court issued an SOP for mentioning, e-filing and VC Hearings for urgent matters[10]. The SOP supersedes previous circulars dated 23.3.2020 and 26.3.2020 issued in this connection.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court issued ‘e-Filing and Video Conferencing Guidelines’[11], the Tripura High Court issued a module for virtual hearing of cases by the High Court[12] and the Gauhati High Court issued fresh directions[13] regarding functioning during the period of lockdown.

On the same day, the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued ‘Video Conferencing and E-Filing Guidelines’[14] for the High Court. Separately, the High Court directed[15] all district and sessions judges in the state to follow the VC guidelines / rules of 1 March 2019 for VC Hearings of urgent cases, as far as practicable.

Additionally, the Delhi High Court ordered[16] all subordinate courts to use ‘Cisco Webex’ for conducting hearings during the period of suspension of functioning ie till 3 May 2020. Separately, the High Court notified[17] that the number of its benches conducting VC Hearings would be increased.

On 16 April 2020, the Himachal Pradesh High Court issued directions[18] for functioning of the High Court and subordinate courts during period of lockdown. On the same day, the Chhattisgarh High Court notified[19] that in light of the MHA Advisory, conduct of court proceedings would be shifted from ‘Zoom’ to ‘Vidyo’. Further, the Karnataka High Court issued directions[20] for the functioning of district and trial courts in the state during the period of lockdown (ie 15 April 2020 to 3 May 2020). Notably, in the same directive, the High Court clarified that this year, the High Court and subordinate courts in Karnataka shall not have any summer vacation.

On 17 April 2020, the Bombay High Court issued notices[21] directing the use of ‘Vidyo’ for hearing of urgent matters at the Principal Seat at Bombay as well as benches at Nagpur, Aurangabad and Goa. These notices supersede the earlier notice published on 15 April 2020, which directed the use of ‘Zoom’. Similarly, in light of various advisories issued by the government in this regard, the Orissa High Court notified[22] that it shall no longer use ‘Zoom’ for conducting VC Hearings.

On the same day, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court inter alia nominated[23] two advocates as amici curiae to assist litigants who are not in a position to approach the court even through VC. Further, the High Court directed the State’s Principal District Judges to undertake similar exercise for their respective districts.

Additionally, the Madras High Court issued further directions[24] regarding e-filing and VC Hearings at the Principal Seat at Madras.

On 18 April 2020, the Supreme Court notified[25] that ‘short category’ matters[26], death penalty matters and matters related to family law would be heard through VC, subject to availability of the concerned Bench and prior approval of the Chief Justice of India. In this connection, the Supreme Court directed interested parties to furnish their joint consent together with particulars of the matters at the specified email address on or before 24 April 2020.

On the same day, in light of the MHA Advisory, the Chhattisgarh High Court issued a corrigendum[27] to previously issued guidelines[28] regarding e-filing and virtual hearings at the High Court. The corrigendum contains directions for use of ‘Vidyo’ instead of ‘Zoom’ for VC Hearings. Notably, the guidelines for e-filing and virtual hearings issued for district and subordinate courts[29] have not undergone any change since they provide for use of ‘Vidyo’ only. Similarly, the Telangana High Court issued an SOP[30] directing conduct of VC Hearings via ‘Cisco Webex’ (and not ‘Zoom’).

Additionally, the Madras High Court notified[31] that the summer vacations of the High Court and all subordinate courts in the state had been adjourned and the courts shall remain operational during the period of 1 May 2020 to 31 May 2020.

On 19 April 2020, the Telangana High Court exempted advocates from addressing the court in case of hearings of matters filed on or after 1 January 2020 and pending admission, in case the advocates do not have access to VC facilities or are not comfortable using such facilities or are held up elsewhere during the lockdown period. Moreover, recognizing that it was unsafe to travel to the High Court from different parts of Hyderabad, the High Court advised advocates to not avail VC facilities in court premises. (Previously[32], the High Court had directed that hearings of all new matters pending admission would be held via VC and had allowed concerned advocates to address the court via VC facilities made available in court premises.)

On the same day, the Madras High Court notified[33] that court-halls would no longer be accessible for any judicial functions during the period of lockdown and that the High Court shall conduct all judicial proceedings solely through VC.

On 20 April 2020, following the MHA Advisory, the Andhra Pradesh High Court issued directions[34] for use of ‘BlueJeans’ application instead of ‘Zoom’ for VC Hearings in the state. Separately, the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued model guidelines[35] for district and sessions judges in the state, directing them to use ‘Vidyo’ for conducting VC Hearings. Additionally, the Madras High Court issued a notification[36] regarding commencement of the functioning of an e-filing portal for bail applications from 22 April 2020. This portal is distinct from / in addition to the existing facility of urgent filings via e-mail.

As on 20 April 2020, the following software have been and/or will be employed across the country to conduct court proceedings virtually[37]:

COURT

(High Courts and their subordinate courts and tribunals)

VIDYO

ZOOM

MS TEAMS

SKYPE

WHATSAPP

MISCELLANEOUS

(Not specified

OR

VC facilities made available in court premises

OR

other apps)

Allahabad High Court

 

 

 

 

 

Ö

(VC facilities made available in court premises as well as Jitsi Meet)

Andhra Pradesh High Court

 

Ö

 

 

 

Ö

(VC facilities made available in court premises and

BlueJeans)

Bombay High Court

Ö

Ö

 

 

 

Ö

Calcutta High Court

Ö

 

Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö

(VC facilities made available in court premises)

Chhattisgarh High Court

Ö

Ö

 

 

 

 

Delhi High Court

Ö

 

 

 

Ö

Ö

(VC facilities made available in court premises as well as Cisco Webex)

Gauhati High Court

Ö

Ö

 

Ö

Ö

Ö
(VC facilities made available in court premises as well as Lifesize)

Gujarat High Court

 

Ö

 

 

 

 

Himachal Pradesh High Court

 

 

 

 

 

Ö

Jammu & Kashmir High Court

 

 

 

 

Ö

Ö

Jharkhand High Court

Ö

Ö

 

Ö

 

Ö

Karnataka High Court

 

Ö

 

Ö

 

 

Kerala High Court

 

Ö

 

 

Ö

Ö

(Google Duo)

Madhya Pradesh High Court

Ö

 

 

 

 

Ö

Madras High Court

 

Ö

 

 

Ö

 

Manipur High Court

Ö

 

 

 

 

 

Meghalaya High Court

Ö

 

 

Ö

Ö

 

Odisha High Court

Ö

Ö

 

 

Ö

Ö

Patna High Court

Ö

Ö

 

Ö

 

Ö

Punjab & Haryana High Court

 

 

 

 

 

Ö

Rajasthan High Court

Ö

 

 

Ö

Ö

Ö

(Jitsi Meet)

Sikkim High Court

Ö

 

 

 

 

 

Telangana High Court

 

Ö

 

Ö

 

Ö

(VC facilities made available in court as well as Cisco Webex)

Tripura High Court

Ö

Ö

Ö

 

 

Ö

(Jitsi Meet/Cisco Webex/Google Hangouts)

Uttarakhand High Court

Ö

(If hearing cannot be held via Zoom)

Ö

(If hearing cannot be held via Jitsi Meet)

 

 

 

Ö

(VC facilities made available in court as well as Jitsi Meet)

  • Kingshuk Banerjee (Partner) and Ms Preeti Sahai (Associate)

For any queries please contact: editors@khaitanco.com

 

[1] See: Notification dated 12.4.2020 available at https://highcourtofuttarakhand.gov.in/upload/contents/File-682.pdf;

[4] See: Notification dated 13.4.2020 available at http://highcourtofkerala.nic.in/downloads/notice_guidelines_13042020.pdf

[5] See: Notification dated 14.4.2020 available at http://meghalayahighcourt.nic.in/sites/default/files/c7_0.pdf

[7] See: Notification dated 14.4.2020 available at https://hcraj.nic.in/hcraj/hcraj_admin/uploadfile/latestupdates/Notification84.pdf; Also see Manual accompanying Notification available at https://hcraj.nic.in/hcraj/Allfiles/JitsiMeetManual.pdf

[9] See: Notification dated 14.4.2020 available at http://www.allahabadhighcourt.in/event/event_7407_14-04-2020.pdf

[10] See: SOP dated 15.4.2020 available at https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/LU/15042020_134922.pdf

[11] See: Guidelines dated 15.4.2020 available at http://hc.ap.nic.in/docs/efilingandvc.pdf

[13] See: Notification dated 15.4.2020 available at http://ghconline.nic.in/General/Notification-15-04-2020.pdf

[14] See: Notification dated 15.4.2020 available at https://mphc.gov.in/PDF/web_pdf/LU/CamScanner%2004-16-2020%2015.03.12.pdf; Also see Addendum dated 21.4.2020 available at https://mphc.gov.in/PDF/web_pdf/LU/regit-final-q8-21-04-20.PDF

[19] See: Notification dated 16.4.2020 available at http://highcourt.cg.gov.in/noti/2020/noti_16042020.pdf

[23] See: Notification dated 17 April 2020 available at http://jkhighcourt.nic.in/doc/upload/orders&cir/order_1579_17042020.pdf

[24] See: Notification dated 17.4.2020 available at http://www.hcmadras.tn.nic.in/notification113.pdf

[25] See: Notice dated 18.4.2020 available at https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/ListingNotice/18042020_083110.pdf

[26] See: Notice dated 20.4.2020 available at https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/Notice/20042020_123811.pdf (specifying matters classified as ‘short category’ matters)

 

[27] See: Corrigendum dated 18 April 2020 available at http://highcourt.cg.gov.in/other/2020/corrigendum_18042020.pdf

[32] See: Notification dated 17.4.2020 available at http://tshc.gov.in/documents/admin_2_2020_04_17_14_24_33.pdf

[33] See: Notification dated 19.4.2020 available at http://www.hcmadras.tn.nic.in/circula_%2019.4.2020.pdf

[34] See: Circular dated 20 April 2020 available at http://hc.ap.nic.in/docs/bluejeans.pdf

[36] See: Notification dated 20.4.2020 available at http://www.hcmadras.tn.nic.in/Efiling.pdf

[37] This is an indicative list prepared on the basis of information available on respective high courts’ websites and in news reports and is subject to modification.

 

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