New Delhi, January 22: The Delhi High Court Friday said it has initiated steps for a hybrid system where a hearing can be joined through virtual as well as physical mode. The high court issued an administrative order stating that when a particular bench is conducting virtual hearing, a lawyer may opt for the virtual hearing of a matter by giving prior intimation.

It has modified its January 14 office order relating to resumption of physical hearings by which the high court decided to increase the number of judges to hear cases physically.

“This court has already initiated steps for hybrid hearing so that in a given case, one party may join the proceedings through virtual mode while the other is present physically in the court,” the office order issued on Friday said, news agency PTI reported.

“As directed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice, till the time said system is put in place and implemented successfully, the note appended to the roster dated January 14 shall read as under:-

“Matters shall be taken up through physical mode as per the roster of sitting of the hon’ble judges of this court. However, requests for taking up any such matter through virtual mode shall be entertained by the court wherever advance intimation is provided,” it said.

Steps for setting up infrastructure for a hybrid system have already been initiated in the Delhi High Court Chief Justice D N Patel’s courtroom and TV screens have been installed to enable advocates opting for the new system to appear virtually.

Eleven benches — two division benches of two judges each and nine single-judge benches — have been conducting physical proceedings as per roster from January 18, and the rest are hearing matters via video conferencing.

The decision to increase the number of benches for physical hearing was taken “in view of the decline in the intensity of spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the national capital”, the high court had said.

It had also issued directions to the district courts to hold physical courts on alternate days of the week from January 18.

Earlier, two to three benches were holding physical courts daily on a rotation basis in the high court which presently has five division benches and 12 single judge benches.

The high court had, on March 25, 2020 restricted its functioning as well as that of the district courts till April 14, 2020.

It was subsequently extended from time to time till January 16, 2021.

In between, on August 27, 2020, the high court decided to partially resume physical hearing of matters from September 1, 2020 by two division bench and three single judge benches on a rotation basis.

The number of benches was later scaled down to one division bench and two single judge benches in view of the rise in COVID-19 cases in Delhi and a majority of the lawyers indicating their preference for virtual hearing of cases.

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