New Delhi, April 6: The Supreme Court on Monday deemed all restrictions imposed on people from entering, attending or taking part in court hearings as lawful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde said these restrictions were in tune with the social distancing norms and best public health practices advocated to contain the contagion.

The court invoked its extraordinary Constitutional powers under Article 142 to step away from the convention of open court hearings. The open court system ensures transparency in administration of justice.

“Every individual and institution is expected to cooperate in the implementation of measures designed to reduce the transmission of the virus. The scaling down of conventional operations within the precincts of courts is a measure in that direction… it is necessary that courts at all levels respond to the call of social distancing and ensure that court premises do not contribute to the spread of virus. This is not a matter of discretion but of duty,” a three-judge Bench led by the CJI observed in a seven-page order, The Hindu reported.

The court made it clear that public health takes precedence over conventions, and that the judiciary would have to improvise and continue to bank heavily on “videoconferencing technologies” in the wake of this “unprecedented and extraordinary outbreak of a pandemic”.

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