The Supreme Court of India has been hearing cases through video-conferencing since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in a latest order it said that it will begin the hybrid physical hearings from March 15. In regard to this, the Supreme Court has also issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the hybrid physical hearings.
As per the court, the physical hearings will be constrained to everyday listening regular hearing matters on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
According to the hybrid system, when a matter Is to be heard in the physical court, the parties as well as the lawyers have a choice to appear either physically or virtually. It is left upon the discretion of the parties to choose the mode of hearing. It is not necessary for both the parties to follow the same mode. One party can appear physically and the other can appear virtually too.
The SOP moreover clarified that in case of a matter directed to be listed for hybrid hearing by the Bench, if none of the parties opts for physical hearing, the matter would be taken up for hearing through video conferencing.
The SOP issued by the top court has devised a pilot scheme as per which, the final hearings/regular matters listed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays will be heard in the hybrid mode as decided by the bench, taking into account the number of parties in the very matter because of the restricted capacity of the courtrooms.
All the other matters, including those listed on Mondays and Fridays, will be continued to be heard through video conferencing mode.