Covid pandemic has ushered in a new era and have brought in new concepts and ways of working in different spheres of life. Our legal system has also undergone a complete change and Video Conferencing Hearings have become the order of the day. The Apex Court and various High Courts are virtually hearing important matters everyday to give justice even in these difficult times.
Their Lordships grant hearing of the matters sitting in their home offices. The lawyers also attend the virtual hearing while in their offices or their homes. But virtual hearings should not compromise with the etiquettes of the Courts. One such interesting matter came before the Apex Court on June 15, 2020.
During the course of hearing of a Transfer Petition the Court noticed that the lawyer appearing in a virtual hearing in the Supreme Court was lying on bed and putting a T-shirt. This dress & gesture drew the displeasure of the judge who observed that ‘minimum court etiquette’ should be followed given the public nature of hearings. The Apex Court observed that lawyers appearing in matters via video- conferencing should be ‘presentable’ and should maintain the decoram of hearing and should be not only be dressed appropriately but should address the court as if present in the courtroom.
The lawyer tendered his unconditional apologies who said it was ‘inappropriate on his part to make a court appearance, whilst lying on bed dressed in a T-shirt’. While accepting his unconditional apologies, the Court observed thus:
‘This court is of the view that when counsel appear in court video hearings, they should be presentable and avoid showing images, which are not appropriate and can only be tolerable in the privacy of their homes…We are all passing through trying times and hearings by virtual courts has become an order of the day. Yet minimum court etiquette in terms of what can be considered decent dress, background, etc should be followed, given the public nature of the hearings.”
Earlier in April this year, a similar incident had come to light when an advocate appearing in a virtual hearing appeared in a vest, drew the anger of the Rajasthan High Court. The Court criticised the advocate for not appearing in proper uniform during the hearing.
Such incidents are probably excusable as the participating lawyers did not actually realise & understand what their web cameras/ mobile were actually showing, thus creating an awkward situation for the legal fraternity. However with virtual hearing becoming a regular feature, atleast for a few months, such incidents should be avoided and proper court etiquettes & decoram should be maintained.