The procurement of resources such as routers, to conduct virtual hearing was the “need of the hour”. The Delhi High Court remarked that Delhi Government’s stand was causing problems to lawyers, litigants, and subordinate judiciary. (Anand Vaid vs Preety Vaid & Ors)
Brief Facts of the Case
The Delhi HC passed an order in a petition about video conferencing facilities in Delhi district courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delhi Government followed the orders passed by the Court. It had sanctioned over Rs 6 crores for the digitization of District Court records. This was for upgrading the existing internet connection to 1 Gbps in all District Court complexes.
Contentions Before the Court
Additional Standing Counsel for Delhi Government was Advocate Anupam Srivastava. He stated the District Court had made two urgent proposals. They were on the procurement of manual attached storage and routers. Both of them were essential for conducting Virtual Courts. Since their financial implications were above Rs. One crore, they were yet to get clearance.
Finance Department, Govt of Delhi, explained that an expenditure of over Rs One crore requires appropriate sanction from the Council of Ministers. Reetesh Singh was the OSD (Examination). Virender Kumar Bansal was the Chairman of the Centralised Computer Committee, District Court. They stated that the proposals fell under the funds which were already available with the District Courts. The Delhi Government only required a formal proposal.
President, Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur represented Delhi High Court Bar Association. Secretary, Advocate Abhijat represented DHCBA too along with the President. They stated in unison that the legal community and the litigants were facing great difficulty. This was about participating virtually in matters listed before the Judges of the District Courts. DHCBA submitted that the Delhi Government be called upon to take expeditious steps. They were to clear the pending proposals in relation to seamless hearing in virtual courts.
A Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad had been set up. The hearing was via video conferencing. The Court sought the presence of the Secretary (Finance), Delhi Government, to get clarity on the issue. But, Secretary (Finance) had to present in a meeting with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. He had requested to defer orders till the next date. The Court gets to know that in the absence of adequate bandwidth, the Judges were using the CISCO Webex app. This free app provided a slot of 40 minutes at one time. Thus, halfway through the arguments, parties were automatically delinked. The whole process had to be undertaken again. This had caused considerable disruptions and delays in the hearing.
The Court observed that all the proposals in question relating to the District Courts were pending on the Delhi Government’s end. This was since 2018. The Court remarked that it had to resort to virtual hearings due to COVID-19. It stated that the need of the hour was to provide adequate bandwidth, network-attached storage, and routers. This was to ease conducting virtual courts. It further stated that lawyers, litigants, and the subordinate judiciary felt inconvenient. For this, the Delhi Government should take a proper stand now.
The Court directed that any correspondent exchanges between the District Judge (Headquarters) and the Delhi Government should occur through an electronic medium. This was to save time and to ensure expeditious disposal of pending issues. The court awaits the presence of the Secretary (Finance), Delhi Government for further hearing. The court further directed for placing this order before the Law Minister, Delhi Government. The Law Minister had been preparing a note on the pending proposal to put before the Council of Ministers.
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