Delhi Court facing problem during Video Conferencing

Lawyers at the seven district courts in the city are struggling with the video conferencing system in place for hearing urgent matters amid the coronavirus outbreak and want the system to be upgraded on a war footing.

Yogita S.
Published on: 15 April 2020 6:53 AM GMT
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New Delhi: Lawyers at the seven district courts in the city are struggling with the video conferencing system in place for hearing urgent matters amid the coronavirus outbreak and want the system to be upgraded on a war footing.

From sending a PDF file of their applications to convincing the judge of the urgency of the matter and address their arguments through video - lawyers are facing facing a plethora of problems, advocate Manish Bhadauria said.

The seven district courts in the national capital are only hearing urgent matters as per the directions of the Supreme Court.

Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa,who represents Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Ahmad Patel and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, said the use of technology in the day-to-day functioning of the courts should be enhanced but the upgrade should be done at a war footing .

Although the continuous lockdown is imperative, it has paralysed the entire criminal justice system of the country.We have to enhance the use of technology in the day-to-day functioning of the courts. Efforts towards this are being made but they are not enough. The upgrade should be done at a war-footing level. More judges must hear the cases by video-conferencing. We must start hearing cases which are urgent (and not only extremely urgent). We have to liberalise the process of listing so that more cases are cleared for hearing, he said.

He welcomed the decision of the Delhi High Court to cancel the summer vacation saying, Our endeavour must be to achieve hearing via video-conferencing by all the judges at the earliest.

Pahwa also said the state government should allocate more funds to upgrade the e-courts in Delhi.

Recently,Bhadauria approached the Karkardooma District Court for urgent hearing of a bail plea in a murder case as the accused had delivered a baby. He told the court that the mother had a surgery and she and her baby had the risk of contracting coronavirus in the congested prisons and the hospital.

He was able to get her out on an interim bail for 45 days but had to go through a tedious process.

I went to the filing counter in the morning and submitted three sets of hard copies to the clerk. The clerk then called up the administrative officer and sent the PDF files to him, who forwarded it to the Judge. I had to wait in the courts complex till 3.30 pm when the court staff told me that the judge had agreed to hear the matter. But I was given a date which was five days after that. I then had to go to court on that day for arguments on the bail plea, he said.

Bhadauria also said he waited for more than an hour for the judge and all the parties to get connected through video during the hearing.

In the middle of the arguments, there was a point when I could not hear anything from the other side. Many lawyers don't know how to send a PDF file or how to log in to the video-conferencing application, he said.

Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, who represents senior Congress leader P Chidambaram and others, said the video-conferencing options are being tested and tried .

It is going to take sometime to evolve the facility into a smooth functioning system. Though the system seems a good one because without going to court, you are able to see the judge and other parties and you can argue on cases without leaving the confines of your homes, there is a time constraint. The time given to hear the matters is less than usual days.

Also, right now, we don't have access to our books from where to cite judgements or anything while addressing the arguments. You can't cite anything more than what is already put on the PDF file sent to the judge. The reply by the state does come on the record as a pre-hearing filing. But if the complainant or the opposite party wants to see something, then the judges allow it to be read it out to them, he said.

Mathur, president of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, added that one can cite an order during arguments but the judge won't have immediate access to it.

Bhadauria said lawyers should have been given a mock drill about the system.

Mathur expressed anguish over the vagueness of the term extremely urgent and said it is subjective.

Judges are only picking up cases which according to their understanding and their belief are extremely urgent. That is a term which may suit someone and may not suit the other person. This extremely urgent' is a vague phenomenon and a subjective thing. The justice system is definitely undergoing tremendous pressure and citizens are finding it difficult to get relief, he noted.

The senior lawyer said there is a growing sense of paranoia among those who are in custody as if the infection is contracted by someone in the congested prisons, the spread would be like a wildfire.

Liberty of an individual needs to be prioritise. Undertrials are not brought to court complexes. There is no meeting with lawyers or with family members. Their frustration is increasing.There are people who have lost 10 kgs in jail. As usual the jail authorities would be sending the reports on which the judge may or may not accept the medical condition of the person. That wider relief giving power which was there earlier is being curtailed.

There are people who filed their cases in February and got dates of late March and early April. Now they are getting dates in July and much later than that. They burned six months of the calendar only waiting for their turn to be heard, he added.

Mathur added that the number of benches should be increased.

PTI

Yogita S.

Yogita S.

Media Graduate, News Editor and PR Enthusiast.

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