NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday said it will take appropriate decision about resumption of physical court hearing after consulting medical experts who have advised that assembly of people in the court at present could lead to spread of COVID-19.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, while hearing a petition which has raised the issue of problems faced during hearing conducted through video-conferencing, said that advice of medical experts on the issue is most important.
"We have been facing this problem for almost a year now. The most important thing is the medical advice which we have received from authorities that it is dangerous to have congregation inside the court and it may lead to spread of virus and fatalities may be there due to this," said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that this issue is for the court to decide after consulting medical experts.
"In a huge country like ours, the courts have not denied access to justice even for a day and this deserves a salute," Mehta told the bench during the hearing conducted through video-conferencing.
The top court, which is conducting hearings through video-conferencing since March last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, told the petitioner that several courts started physical hearings but they have to close it down as lawyers were not coming for physical court hearings.
"In Madras, lawyers were not coming for physical court hearings. In Madras and in Rajasthan, it had started but had to be closed down. We will take appropriate decision at the appropriate time after consulting with medical experts," the bench said, adding, "We are regularly reviewing it."
Dealing with the separate issue of extending assistance to needy advocates during the pandemic times, the top court asked the solicitor general to hold a meeting with lawyers, including Bar Council of India chairman and senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, representing different bar bodies in the matter.
The bench told Mishra to explore the possibility of getting contribution from bar members, who are willing to contribute.
Mishra told the court that bar bodies have done everything possible to extend help to needy advocates during the pandemic time.
We are asking you to explore the possibility, which we have explained, of getting funds.
People have money and it is not that they don't have money.
Ask them if they can contribute, the bench said, adding, The primary responsibility is of the bar and secondary responsibility is of the government.
One of the lawyers, representing a lawyers' body, told the bench that government should be asked to give interest free loan to needy lawyers during this pandemic time.
The bench told Mehta, They expect the government to make some loan available for which the bar council will stand as guarantor.
Mehta said he will take instruction on the issue and get back to the court.
You can sit together so that in one meeting, it can be sorted out, the bench told Mehta.
The solicitor general said he will hold a meeting with the lawyers appearing in the matter and discuss the issue of extending help to advocates affected during the pandemic.
The bench said it will hear the matter after two weeks.
The Bar Council of India had earlier moved the apex court seeking financial assistance, including disbursal of soft loans, to needy advocates affected by the pandemic.
It has sought a direction to the Centre as well as all the states to arrange an interest-free loan of up to Rs three lakh each to advocates enrolled with the respective state Bar Councils.
The loan, disbursed through the state bar councils, would be repayable in reasonable monthly instalments at least 12 months after normal court functioning commences, it has said.