First physical hearing in SC after a gap of 16 months

New Delhi:- The Supreme Court on Friday conducted its first physical hearing in a case after a gap of more than 16 months.

Since the beginning of the lockdown in March last year, the top court has been taking up matters through video conferencing.

On July 2, a bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat had recorded in its order that parties in a criminal appeal have voluntarily agreed to appear physically in the court to argue the matter on July 30. On Friday, counsel involved in the matter appeared physically before a bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose.

The top court in its order said: “The learned counsel for the parties are physically present today. Parties to appear physically on the next date of hearing. List these matters on September 1, 2021.”

According to a senior top court official, the physical hearing in the matter on Friday was an exception, as the parties had agreed to appear physically argue their matter. The official added that the parties had cited difficulty in arguing the matter through video conferencing. “Counsel followed the Covid appropriate behaviour during the hearing on the matter,” the official said.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had written a letter to Chief Justice N.V. Ramana to resume physical hearing in the apex court, as the COVID-19 situation in Delhi has come to almost normal.

The apex court’s bar body, through its President and senior advocate Vikas Singh, in a letter to the Chief Justice, had said on July 5, the Covid positivity rate has come down to 0.09 per cent, where out of 61,405 tests, only 54 positive cases were reported. The SCBA President also said: “As the situation stands today, nobody knows when things may further escalate, and a third wave may also become a possibility. In these uncertain circumstances, I feel that we have to resume our activities on the basis of the current situation.”