CHAIRMAN, BAR COUNCIL. Memorundam to Cj mhc

R.O.C. No. 886 of 2020 02.06.2020
To
The Hon’ble Chief Justice &
the Companion Judges,
Madras High Court,
Chennai – 600 104.
Respected Lordships,
Sub: Request to conduct open Court hearing in the Principal Seat
at Chennai, all Sub-Ordinate Courts and opening of the
Chambers – Reg.
Ref: 1. Our letter dated 16.03.2020.
2. Our letter dated 21.04.2020.
3. Resolution No.141/2020 dated 08.05.2020.
4. Our letter videR.O.C.No.838 of 2020, dated 12.05.2020.

At the outset, we would like to congratulate the pro-active role of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Madras High Court in the effort to provide the access to justice in these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic. We would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the provision of the new e-filing system introduced during this need of hour.
Hon’ble Mr. Justice T. Sivagnanam, Chairman of the e-Committee has taken tireless efforts to setup this e-filing system for the advocates and litigant public. The online filing of matters, scrutinizing, curing of defects, etc., will now be possible with the new e-filing system. We also truly grateful for the acknowledgement that Open Court hearing are the spine of our system and that Virtual Courts are not a substitute to the physical courts.
We are grateful to the Hon’ble High Court and to your Lordships for having decided to open nine District Courts in the District headquarters subject to certain
conditions. We are grateful that the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has also commenced functioning with open Courts with effect from 01.06.2020. In the same line, we appeal to your Lordships to extend the same approach of physical appearance in Courts and physical filing in the other Courts as well.
It is our duty and responsible to apprise the Hon’ble Court about the feedback as received by leaders of the Bar Associations and members of the Bar for your kind consideration as under :
Almost 98% of the advocates are not comfortable with the virtual court hearings. The common feedback seems to be that the advocates are unable to present their cases effectively in the Virtual courts and the same is acting as a major impediment for advocates to consent for such virtual hearings.
In matter involving several parties and appearance by many advocates, not all advocates are given a chance to speak and sometimes, their mics are put on mute by the Coordinator as a result of which, their matters are heard in their absence.
There are problems with audio and video quality of hearings, which results in the advocates not being able to effectively put forth their arguments.
Many of the advocates are not well equipped with knowledge on the use of computers and hence they are unable to participate in the process effectively.
There are still advocates who are outside the court jurisdiction and in their respective hometowns, not having access to their files and thus unable to participate effectively in Virtual Court hearings.
Most of the advocates are facing financial problems during this pandemic due to staggered working of the courts for the past 3 months. Several advocates have expressed their concern to the Bar Council about the loss of their livelihood during the past few months. Unless the normal functioning of courts is resumed, the said concern will not abate.
Advocates are not able to effectively present their cases like reading out judgments, provisions from the Bare Acts, etc., Several times, all documents filed through e-filing are not available with the Bench.
After filing of matters, the Registry takes its own time to scrutinize the papers and advocates have to follow up and give several reminders to the Registry officials. The defects curing mechanism as well as the registration of matters are problematic areas which needs urgent re-consideration.
In view of the above said practical difficulties, we request your Lordship’s to resume physical court hearings in Madras High Court, Sub-Ordinate Courts, Judicial Magistrate Courts and District Munsiff Courts as it has been taken with regard to other nine districts and Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court as early as possible.
Moreso, in light of the announcement made by the Government, the measures to be undertaken to resume normalcy in a phased manner. Therefore, the Hon’ble Court may, consider imposing other conditions for the safety of all concerned, such as allowing limited number of advocates for the matters. Few suggestions in this regards are as follows:-
In the Principal Bench of the Madras High Court also instead of all the Hon’ble Judges sitting in all the 33 Courts, if the listing of matters is restricted to urgent motions in writs, appellate side, original side, criminal side, etc., The number of the cases listed and the number of Courts would be limited and the entry of the advocates may be permitted to such Court alone, limited to one advocate on record and a Senior Advocate if engaged in the matter and the advocates may be permitted to enter the Court hall only at the time or just before the case is likely to be called. Thereby, the necessity of the number of advocates to visit the Court premises can also be restricted and regulated.
Advocates appearing in 5 matters may be allowed to be present at any given time.
Entry of litigants and others may be restricted for the time being. Every advocate could be required to compulsorily leave the Courtroom after his/her matter is over.
Clerks entry/exit may be regulated and they may be permitted to keep case bundles along with the arguing advocates if necessary.
The existing distance between the judges and the advocates should be increased. The quality and working of mics has to be improved so that the advocates can be heard even from a distance.
Thermal screening should be done to all persons in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) checking points.
Every person entering court room should be necessarily compelled to sanitize their hands. All instructions given by the World Health Organization (WHO) for safety and health measures, social distancing, etc., may be strictly enforced.
Wearing of masks should be made compulsory for all advocates even inside the courtroom, with the advocates who is arguing to wear a face shield.
Separate door for entry and exit of advocates may be ear marked.
Entry of advocates in the court should be confined only to the advocates in the cause list. The library, canteen, etc., to remain closed.
The important cases like compromise matters in matrimonial cases, issuance of cheques in MCOP cases can be given preferences.
We also request the Hon’ble Court to consider the opening of the Chambers on a staggered basis to enable the advocates to take their case bundles and other records which are necessary for them to argue the cases.
Therefore, we request your Lordships to kindly consider the above submissions and take appropriate decision as has been taken with respect to the nine districts and Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court as early as possible in the interest of the administration of justice, the institution and all the stakeholders including the litigants.
Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
CHAIRMAN, BAR COUNCIL.

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2 Responses

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