June 6: The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has come up with a unique design to ensure that all Covid-19 prevention protocols are followed when courts there reopen next week, as per circulars issued by Chief Justice Gita Mittal last week. As part of these measures, high court judges will conduct proceedings sitting in their chambers while litigants/lawyers will argue cases in the court rooms using video conferencing, The Economic Times reported. 

The chief justice has ordered that separate conference/court rooms be earmarked for the corresponding judges’ chambers. As for district courts, Justice Mittal has instructed that “installation of plastic sheets/acrylic/glass protective screens on the dais” be facilitated to avoid any form of contact. 

The ‘arguing desk’ used by lawyers will be moved away from the judges’ side. In the judges’ chambers, windows would be kept open even when the air conditioner is running, reads four different circulars issued on May 28. To avoid the use of air conditioners, the Chief Justice has instructed that in all rooms, including the judges chambers, fans shall be installed. 

The lower Courts have been asked to ensure that no criminal cases are adjourned. It has been decided that lower courts will issue a weekly cause list on the last working day of the week, which will be displayed on the court website. Cases pertaining to bail, domestic violence, cases of maintenance, custody of children, matters involving injunctions, cases/applications fixed for final hearing will be treated as “urgent”. The chief justice has said that all urgent cases should not be adjourned. All courts have been asked to hear cases through video conferencing observing “social distancing”. 

If a lawyer or litigant being unable to establish e-contact with the court, the court will make arrangements for them to make their submissions using e-facilities within the court complex, the circular stated. Allowing written submissions to be furnished via emails, all members of the district court Bar have been asked to provide mobile numbers/landline phone number and emails to the office of the Principal District Judge by May 31. 

“In cases of exceptional urgency when video conferencing is not available, remote hearing may be done by video call. The concerned judicial officer shall arrange mobile handsets enabled with WhatsApp for his/her court and shall also notify the mobile numbers to be used for video calling on the official website of the concerned district court,” the circular read. 

“To ensure identification, all requests for video calls must include a photograph of the party and the lawyer. Courts would save the request and… download the same and keep it in the concerned file. Video calling shall be initiated, terminated and controlled at the court end only and its recording shall be maintained by the court concerned for its internal use,” the circular read. Advocates who want to argue their cases through video conferencing/virtual appearance from their respective residence or offices can do so. 

“The concerned advocate/litigant shall ensure that the room from where he/she intends to appear before the court through video call is free from all sorts of disturbances like external noises, poor lighting, improper acoustics etc,” the circular read. In case, lawyers are unable to reach the courts, they can make their submissions from their residences/offices. 

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