Justice in times of corona: Virtual hearings a hit, cases disposed of in record time

Virtual functioning, which came about because of the constraints imposed by the shutdown, has now thrown open the possibility of the Madras High Court conducting its proceeding online.
File Photo
File Photo


Though there were teething problems initially, judges and litigants, including government counsels, are now advocating its various advantages.
Since the lockdown, the Madras High Court has been making use of the latest digital tools, including video conferencing app Zoom, to conduct its proceedings online. Judges sitting in different places hear cases addressed by government law officers from one location and opponent lawyers from another. At any given point of time, around 40 including the judges and advocates are on call.
During the first phase of the lockdown, interim orders were passed in 137 cases, mostly related to COVID-19 and the lockdown. Interestingly, cases were disposed of so rapidly that the registry was able to upload the orders on the website the same day or the following day.
From the registry to the bar, the feedback has been positive about using IT infrastructure to aid the
proceedings. Though it was not without its initial hiccups, especially in terms of connectivity, the process has been good by and large, say government advocates and the petitioners’ counsels. A specific advantage of this was highlighted when Justice S Vaidyanathan was hearing the plea from a Korean national seeking to be moved to Kancheepuram from the special camp Tiruchy where he was lodged. But after being given a virtual tour of the special camp by the Tiruchy Collector, Justice Vaidyanathan held that it gave him a bird’s eye view of the facilities available, and disposed of the plea by asking him to stay put in the special camp itself. Enthused by the process that saved time and enabled him to understand the actual scenario so as to arrive at a definite conclusion, the judge said, “The system of viewing disputed sites through WhatsApp Video Call or any other application through video mode can be implemented in cases pertaining to encroachments on roads, water bodies, poramboke lands, tanks, illegal constructions, OSR, parks, etc. to ensure that, the officials/authorities discharge their work without any extraneous consideration.”
Despite concerns about hackers, many feel that the need of the hour requires one to get into digital mode. Besides ensuring that the judicial process continued without any interruption, technology offers the option of open court, which brings with it free and fair access to the public, including the press, pointed out a senior counsel.

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