After a self-imposed quarantine of more than 10 days,
it was rather exciting to see the cause list on the website of the Supreme Court
which showed that my matter was listed at 3 PM on 27.03.2020.
What is rather commendable is that in times of complete lockdown due
to Covid-19, the Apex Court has evolved an extra-ordinary process to
ensure the listing and hearing of urgent matters. The method to get
the matter listed is simple and, in my experience, far easier than
getting the matter listed during ordinary times. The AOR or the
party-in-person is required to send an email explaining the urgency
along with an unattested affidavit of urgency. The Court has
permitted the filing of a duly affirmed affidavit at a later point
in time, duly recognising that it may not be possible for advocates
to get such affidavits signed and affirmed before an oath
commissioner due to the prevailing un-precedented times. After the
issuance of the email for listing, if the request for listing is
allowed, the matter is automatically listed the next day. However,
it is not the end of the road for a matter, if the request is
rejected. A list of email requests that are rejected was also
uploaded on the Supreme Court website. In all such cases, the
procedure prescribed by the Apex Court permits the counsel to
contact the relevant Judge in charge and mention the matter to
explain the urgency, over a telecon. Mentioning over a phone call is
an extra-ordinary measure adopted in extra-ordinary times by the
Apex Court and is an aspect that I deeply appreciate. The ease of
process for the listing of an urgent matter is a great initiative
and should be continued even after restoration of normalcy.
Coming back to the hearing, after the cause list was uploaded on
26.03.2020, sometime late evening, I was added to a group on
WhatsApp. The group had other AORs whose matters were listed before
the bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Arun Mishra and Hon’ble
Mr. Justice Deepak Gupta. The Administrator of the group, who was
the technical person facilitating the call, sent a message asking
everyone to address all queries relating to the hearing to him. The
creation of the group was rather reassuring since the Vidyo App
leaves one is a state of suspense. Despite this reassurance and the
best effort of the court, there were tensed moments due to the
inadequate information about the process being adopted by the Apex
Court for the videoconferencing.
As a background, there is no system of pre-login to the Vidyo
Application. A link is shared with the advocate on record, just
before the hearing and upon clicking the link, the Vidyo Application
allows the AOR to login. Without the link, the AOR cannot login to
the application. If you click on the link and the video-call drops,
the same link does not work again and one requires a de novo link
from the administrator. A test link was shared with us around 1 PM
and the same had worked perfectly fine for us.
As per the process, a particular AOR is allowed to log-in only once
his/her matter is called out. This means that the AOR for item 2
will get the link only once item 1 concludes. Furthermore, the
benches also convene one after the other and not simultaneously.
This meant that if the matters before the Bench comprising of HMJ
D.Y. Chandrachud and HMJ Surya Kant (which was scheduled to hold a
hearing at 11 AM) went on for longer than 1 PM, the bench of HMJ L.
Nageswara Rao and HMJ Aniruddha Bose where the cause list indicated
the time as 1 PM, would be able to preside on their matters only
It was clarified by the administrator that if informed in advance,
the link shared with the AOR, can be shared by the AOR with the
Senior Advocate. The same was done successfully in item 1 before the
bench comprising of HMJ Mishra and HMJ Deepak Gupta where Mr. K.V.
Vishwanathan, Senior Advocate and Ms. Raghenth Basant, Advocate had
logged into from two different links though representing the same
party. I did not take this chance and went to Mr. Maninder Singh,
Senior Advocate’s office, from where we conducted the
videoconference in our matter.
Item 1 before HMJ Arun Mishra and HMJ Deepak Gupta started sometime
around 320 PM. As item 2 before the bench, my matter was sought to
be taken up at 3 50 PM. A link was shared with me by the
administrator of the WhatsApp group. After 5 failed attempts at
logging into application Vidyo, the hearing took place on a video
call over WhatsApp as contemplated in the circular dated 26.03.2020.
During this period, I was able to converse with the Administrator
through the WhatsApp group as also over the phone. The hearing over
the WhatsApp call was smooth.
After conclusion of the hearing, we got a great sense of
satisfaction that at least we had been able to achieve a fruitful
hearing during days when the complete nation is in a state of shut
down. However, there is a lot of scope for improvement. To start
with, my email for mentioning was not acknowledged. There was no
manner for submitting an appearance slip. While we submitted the
same to the admin of the WhatsApp Group, he informed that he may not
be able to handover the same to the court master. Additionally, we
had a limited legal issue to address the Hon’ble Bench on. However,
the lack of an interface where we can share scanned
documentation/precedents with the bench means that the hearing is
limited to what is already filed before the court. My query in this
regard to the administrator of the group remained unanswered.
Furthermore, much of our anxiety could have been put to rest, if a
login id and password was issued to the AORs in advance. However, it
is just the beginning and we can only expect that things will get
better in times to come. I for one, am an optimist. The process for
urgent hearing gives litigants the hope that the gates of the
majestic Apex Court of this country are forever open to those who
knock them much like how help is always given at Hogwarts, to those
who ask for it.
Nidhi Mohan Parashar
Nidhi is a Founding Partner at Vedya Partners and has been in regular practitioner since 2011. She is an Advocate on record with the Supreme Court of India. She takes pride in offering legal aid as part of the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee as well as being a Government PLeader for the Union of India. She Regularly advises and and represents clients in commercial and civil litigation as well as matrimonial and succession related issues.
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