Srinagar: In view of the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases and spread of its highly infectious Omicron variant, Chief Justice of High Court of J&K and Ladakh has issued directions with regard to hearing and filing of the cases in the High Court as well as in the District and Subordinate Courts and Tribunals in J&K and Ladakh.
An order issued by the Registrar General in this regard indicates that the High Court of J&K and Ladakh and other courts have shifted to the virtual mode of hearing with a conditional physical mode.
“Ordinarily, the hearing of cases listed before a Bench shall be through virtual mode, however, physical hearing in respect of any listed matter will be at the discretion of the Bench concerned subject to the satisfaction of the Bench regarding urgency involved in such matter and thereafter such matter can be taken up for physical hearing on the date fixed by the Bench” reads the order.
For the smooth hearing of the cases through virtual mode, the order says, the Registrars Judicial of both wings of the High Court in coordination with the CPC e-Courts shall create a link for each Bench in their respective wings and provide the same to the advocates and litigants by making it available on the official website of the High Court or through any appropriate electronic mode.
While the order underscores that the entry of litigants and public into the Court premises from the very outer gate shall be strictly prohibited, it says the entry of clerks of the advocates shall be restricted to the chambers of advocates and their entry into the court building and sections/offices shall be prohibited.
In order to decongest the sections, offices or Courts, the order said, that the officials shall be permitted to function in batches with a 50 per cent reduction on a rotation basis.
“The roster in this regard shall be formulated by the Registrar Judicial of the concerned wing. The officials, who as per the roster are not on duty in the office, shall not leave the station and shall remain available on telephone and electronic means of communication at all times,” the order said. “The Registrars Judicial of both wings of the High Court, shall ensure sanitization of the entire High Court Complex on every Saturday and Sunday”, it says.
While the order indicates that the staff on duty and the counsel, if any permitted for physical hearing, shall take necessary precautions, ensure physical distancing, wearing of mask and observance of SOPs and guidelines issued by the respective Governments from time to time, it says on account of the virtual hearing, entry of lawyers in the High Court premises is not required unless any advocate is permitted for physical hearing in any extremely urgent matter.
With regard to district and Subordinate Courts and Tribunals in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, the Chief Justice said that ordinarily, the Presiding Officers of the Courts shall hear the cases through the virtual mode from their respective courtrooms or chambers during court hours.
“However, physical hearing in respect of any such listed matter will be at the discretion of the Presiding Officer concerned subject to the satisfaction of the Presiding Officer regarding urgency involved in such matter and thereafter such matter can be taken up for physical hearing on the date fixed by the Presiding Officer.”
While the order strictly prohibits the entry of the general public into the Court premises from the very outer gate, it restricts the entry of clerks of the advocates to the chambers of advocates only.
The order underlines that entry of accused persons and witnesses to the Court premises and Courtrooms shall be permitted subject to the following of all COVID related protocols and production of vaccination certificates. “Also, the officials working in the Subordinate Courts shall be permitted to function in batches with 50 per cent reduction on a rotation basis. The roster in this regard shall be formulated by the concerned Presiding Officer of the Court.”