Plea in SC to declare hearing through virtual mode a fundamental right

New Delhi :-A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court by a lawyers’ body against the decision of the Uttarakhand High Court to exclude virtual hearing of cases while resuming physical functioning from Tuesday. The plea also seeks to make the virtual mode of hearing a fundamental right.

The plea of All India Jurists Association, a body of more than 5,000 lawyers, has been drawn by advocate Siddharth R. Gupta and filed through advocate on record Sriram Parakkat.

The petition has challenged the August 16 notification issued by the Registrar General, Uttarakhand High Court, which said that the court will resume physical hearing and no request for virtual hearing will be entertained.

“The virtual court has been proscribed by directing that no such request shall be entertained. Pertinently, the copy of the said letter has been forwarded to the Registrar Generals of all the High Courts, with an anticipation of issuance of similar such orders by other High Courts of the country”, said the plea.

It further argued that the high court’s order is a death knell for the idea of virtual courts, which is an accessible, affordable justice in the country being propagated by the e-committee of the top court.

The plea said it is necessary that an interim order be passed by the top court to the effect that no lawyer in ordinary circumstances shall be denied access to virtual courts or any category/ class of proceedings before the high courts.

Besides challenging the decision of the Uttarakhand High Court, the plea also sought a direction to restrain all high courts from denying access to lawyers through virtual mode of hearing on the ground of availability of physical hearing.

The plea urged the top court to issue directions declaring that the right to access to virtual courts through video conferencing for attending and participating in the conduct of any case proceeding is a facet of fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution.

The lawyers’ body also sought quashing of the Uttarakhand High Court order prohibiting access to virtual courts.

The plea emphasized that access to virtual courts as a fundamental right cannot be denied to any lawyer or a litigant by any court of law.

Apart from Uttarakhand, the plea also cited instances of the Bombay, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala High Courts compelling lawyers to appear physically.