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Plea to close regn dept offices dismissed
Dismissing a plea seeking to direct the Tamil Nadu government to close all registration offices as the threat of COVID-19 spread is yet to recede, the Madras High Court said appropriate departments should also take a call on the representations instead of driving the petitioners to the court.
A division bench comprising Justice M Sathaynarayanan and Justice M Nirmal Kumar noted that
Commercial Taxes and Registration department figured in the list of exempted services and that a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been put in place by the Inspector General of Registration.
“It is also obligatory on the part of the superior officials of the Commercial Taxes and Registration department to carry out effective/surprise inspection to ensure that social distancing and other norms pertaining to the prevention and containment of COVID-19 virus are strictly complied with,” the bench said.
The court pointed out that the State government had taken a call to open the Registration department based on a plea by the Tamil Nadu Document Writers Association the bench. “What has to be done in the present scenario is that the appropriate departments are also expected to take a call in respect of any representation submitted by the concerned associations/ individuals pertaining to essential services and activities.
As and when such representations are preferred, the concerned department is expected to take a call and give a disposal depending upon the merits,” it added.
The bench also recorded the submission of Additional Advocate General Narmadha Sampath that there was a huge shortfall in revenue collection because most of the industries have been ordered to be temporarily closed.
As this was a crucial period where revenue was required for undertaking exercises to contain and eliminate COVID-19, the Registration department had become functional with all safeguards in place as per the guidelines, she added.
The petitioner, Sentil Vel Murugan of Madurai, had contended that there was every possibility of persons contracting COVID-19 as people were going to flock registration offices.
Trial via video conference to continue
The Madras High Court has decided to continue its functioning through video conferencing with increased strength of two division benches and 10 single judges at the principal bench through this month. In a full bench meeting that was held through video conferencing, it was also decided to enhance the hearing of the case in a staggered manner.
Earlier, it was intimated that the High Court summer vacation stood cancelled to make up for the loss of court work during the past two months of COVID-19 lockdown.
During the meeting on Thursday, the full court resolved that it may not be appropriate to resume normal court functioning in the prevailing situation.
“Looking to the peculiar grim situation of the State of Tamil Nadu in relation to the existing status of the threat of coronavirus, the house was of the unanimous opinion that in order to meet the situation which is likely to continue in the month of May as predicted, it may not be appropriate to resume regular and normal functioning as that may invite the possibility of congregation of lawyers and litigants, and violation of physical distancing norms,” the full bench held.
Noting that this continued state of lockdown should also not impede the functioning of the courts beyond a limit, it was suggested that in order to ensure physical distancing norms, threats of spread of the endemic by physical contact and to avoid any complications arising from it, the system of hearing of matters through remote video conferencing be continued. In the case of the Madurai bench, the full court resolved that with the court being at a considerable distance from the town and with all 15 judges, including the Administrative Judge, living within the campus of the High Court, they can function from their residences or their chambers through video- conferencing only.
Similarly, regarding subordinate courts, it was resolved that they may also resume a staggered functioning with limited subject matters requiring urgent or expedient hearing till May 31 and subject to any further decision by the High Court. The subject matters may range from matrimonial cases; Pocso cases; motor accident claims; domestic violence cases; bails and anticipatory bails; injunctions matters; ex-parte motions, rent control and such related matters, which may be conveniently handled through video- conferencing.