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SC emerges as global leader in hearing cases via video conferencing during lockdown

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has emerged a global leader in hearing cases through video conferencing during Covid-induced lockdown and would achieve a unique feat of taking up more than seven thousand cases during this period.

As per the information available with the Supreme Court’s website, the apex court will reach the milestone to hear 7,197 cases on 57th day of virtual court hearings on Friday when its 11 benches will take up 206 matters for adjudication.

During the lockdown period, starting from March 23, a total of 617 benches in the top court have taken up 6,991 cases for hearing.

Out of 617 benches, 293 of them sat in virtual courts to hear main matters and 324 benches dealt with review petitions.

As per the apex court’s website, 150 cases have been taken up by Registrar Courts during this lockdown period.

Participation of lawyers in virtual court hearings also increased steadily, as per information (approx) 25,000 video links have been shared with advocates for virtual court hearing.

The apex court Benches have delivered 670 Judgements ( i.e. 132 in main matters and 538 connected matters) during this period.

During this period, the information available on the website stated that the top court delivered important decisions like contagion of corona virus in prisons, guidelines for court functioning through video conferencing during the pandemic. “The top court has emerged as a global leader in virtual court hearings during the nationwide lockdown for hearing cases,” an official of the apex court said.

“United Kingdom’s Supreme Court heard a total of 10 cases from March 24 till date and pronounced 15 judgments. There is no data available about the number of cases heard through virtual mode by the US SC, which in any case takes up 100-150 petitions for hearing every year from among 7,000-odd filed seeking review of decisions of other courts.

“US Supreme Court pronounced 20 judgments between March 30 and June 8. Australia’s top court heard 94 cases and pronounced 12 judgments between April 7 and June 3. Canadian Supreme Court took up for hearing 173 cases between March 27 and June 11 and delivered five judgments during that period,” the apex court website said.

While South African Supreme Court heard 51 cases during the lockdown period and delivered 58 judgments, the top court in Singapore heard 146 cases and passed 98 judgments during lockdown, it said adding that only the Supreme Court in Spain had a busier schedule than other apex courts around the world as it heard 800 cases.

On the issue of resumption of physical courts, none of the Supreme Courts have taken any decision and have continued hearing of cases with virtual courts.

The only exception is the European Union’s court of justice, which resumed oral hearing from May 25.

Singapore’s top court also allowed to permit physical hearing in very limited number of cases at the discretion of the court after maintaining social distancing and taking other precautions.

The apex court had earlier strongly defended its “Virtual Courts system” keeping in mind the Covid-19 pandemic and said the important institutional requirement was to ensure that “administration of justice” does not crumble in the face of “unprecedented scenario”.


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