In a new and rather significant development, the Supreme Court has decided to hear all the cases listed on Wednesday and Thursday i.e. non-miscellaneous days only in the physical presence of the lawyers and will only be heard in the courtroom starting from October 20. The modified Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was issued by the apex court on Thursday. This is the first time since March 2020 that the Supreme Court is actually insisting on the physical presence of lawyers for hearing cases which is a sure sign that the top court would slowly move back to physical hearings.
In any matter listed for physical hearing, one advocate-on-record (AOR) or one of his or her nominees, one opposing counsel and one junior counsel for each party will only be allowed to enter the courtroom. One registered clerk in each party, as determined by the AOR, will be allowed to carry paper books/journals etc. to the courtroom.
After the Court switched to the virtual hearing in March last year because of COVID-19, lawyers were given the opportunity to appear in person or through a video conference.
The SOP also stated that unless directed by the Court / Bench, all matters, listed on miscellaneous days (Monday and Friday) will continue to be heard in video/teleconferencing mode until further notice. All of the cases listed on Tuesday, as a non-miscellaneous day, will also be heard in physical mode; however, the same can also be heard through video/teleconferencing mode if AOR submits an application beforehand.
The SOP also said that if the Bench is of the opinion that in a particular case which is listed on non-miscellaneous days, if the number of counsel exceeds the capacity of the courtroom, according to Covid-19 norms, the registry will provide them with the option of video/teleconferencing / hybrid mode.