In a significant development, the Supreme Court of India has taken note of the discontinuation of video conferencing facilities in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The petitioner, representing themselves, has raised concerns about the non-utilization of video conferencing resources and the complete cessation of their use by the High Court. Next hearing on 6th October, 2023.
Notice to High Court Registrar General: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Registrar General of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in response to the petitioner’s grievance regarding the non-utilization of video conferencing facilities.
Notice to All High Courts: In addition to the notice to the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, the Supreme Court has extended notice to the Registrars General of all High Courts. This communication will be made through email to ensure comprehensive coverage.
Notice to Tribunals: The Supreme Court has also directed notices to be issued to the Registrars of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and the National Green Tribunal.
Seeking Information on Hybrid Hearings: The Registrars General of High Courts and the Registrars of the mentioned Tribunals have been instructed to provide information to the Supreme Court regarding the allowance of hybrid mode hearings or the discontinuation of related facilities. They are required to submit an affidavit within two weeks. Specifically, they need to address the number of video conferencing hearings conducted in the last three months and whether any courts are refusing to permit video conferencing hearings.
Solicitor General’s Assistance: The Supreme Court has requested the Solicitor General to provide assistance and insights regarding the availability of hybrid hearings in various Tribunals, including the Debt Recovery Tribunals, Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunals, Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, and other Tribunals under different Ministries.
Next Hearing: The Writ Petition is scheduled for its next hearing on 6th October 2023.
This development underscores the judiciary’s commitment to exploring modern technologies like video conferencing while ensuring access to justice through hybrid hearings, with the Solicitor General’s insights expected to play a crucial role in shaping the future of legal proceedings.
FULL TEXT OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT/ORDER
1 The petitioner who appears in person has a grievance that the Video Conferencing facilities which have been set up by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana are not being put to use and the High Court has completely disbanded the use of the Video Conferencing facilities.
2 Issue notice to the Registrar General of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
3 We also in addition, issue notice to the Registrars General of all the High Courts which shall be communicated by the Registrar (Judicial) through email.
4 We also issue notice to the Registrars of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the National Green Tribunal.
5 The Registrar Generals of the High Courts and the Registrars of the Tribunals shall intimate this Court as to whether hearings in the hybrid mode are being allowed or whether the facilities have been disbanded. They shall also file an affidavit before this Court within a period of two weeks from today. They shall indicate :
(i) How many video conferencing hearings have taken place in the last three months; and
(ii) Whether any courts are declining to permit video conferencing hearings.
6 Service shall also be effected on the Central Agency. We request the Solicitor General to assist the Court on the availability of hybrid hearings in the Debt Recovery Tribunals, Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunals, Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and other Tribunals under the various Ministries.
7 List the Writ Petition on 06 October 2023.