SC unhappy over high courts disbanding tech setup for virtual hearings | India News

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said it was “deeply disturbed” with some chief justices of high courts doing away with technology setups for virtual hearings and said public money cannot be dealt with in this manner.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud which was dealing with a plea seeking declaration of virtual court hearings as a fundamental right observed that technology was not for the pandemic period only.
It is here to stay and the infrastructure cannot be done away with in this manner, the CJI said, adding, “We’ll formulate an order and pass. We have to ensure that nobody is left behind due to technology.”
Highlighting that Rs 7,000 crore has been approved by the central government for Phase 3 of the E-courts project, the CJI said it will be used for improving the infrastructure in all the district courts also.
“Some of the chief justices of the high courts are doing this and I am very deeply disturbed by this. What some of the chief justices are doing is, all the money which we have spent, they are just disbanding the technological infrastructure which we have created for virtual hearings.
“I am deeply disturbed by some of the high courts doing this. Irrespective of whether a chief justice is technology friendly or not, this is not how you deal with public money. You have to ensure that infrastructure is available,” the CJI said.
The observations were made by the bench also comprising justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala.
The CJI said, “We have to think of the bottom layer of the pyramid also and not only the top that you see here”.
He pointed out that some judges say when they can come to the court, why can’t the lawyers.
“That begs the point. The conditions in which they come to work are very different from what lawyers face,” Justice Chandrachud said, adding that as the chairperson of the e-committee, he was deeply concerned that no one should be left behind.
He said whether a chief justice understands technology or not, they are duty bound and noted that even some tribunals are also disbanding technological setups.
“As if they are saying it was only for the pandemic. Technology is not only for the pandemic. It is here to stay for the future. We’ll formulate an order and pass. We have to ensure that nobody is left behind due to technology,” the CJI said.
He also highlighted that the apex court has also started the e-SCR project and it was making judgments available in local languages.
The Electronic Supreme Court Reports (e-SCR) project is an initiative to provide the digital version of the apex court’s judgments in the manner they are reported in the official law report – ‘Supreme Court Reports’
The CJI also asked Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra to get a response from bar councils of states and said that an order will be framed soon in the matter.
The petitioner’s counsel submitted that some high courts have stopped the option of hybrid hearings.
The lawyer had earlier said some high courts are only hearing cases through physical mode and had added that the plea was last heard in April 2022 by a bench headed by Justice (since retired) L Nageswara Rao.
A petition was filed by the lawyers’ body, All India Association of Jurists, against the decision of the Uttarakhand High Court to revert to complete physical hearings without a hybrid option.
The plea said the high courts at Uttarakhand, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala were not providing joining links for attending cases through virtual mode.
It said the denial of access to the facility of hearing cases through virtual mode amounted to a denial of Fundamental Rights under Articles 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

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