Kerala High Court Issues an Official Memorandum Listing down Guidelines to be followed by Subordinate Courts Post Lockdown

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The High Court of Kerala has issued a new set of Advisories to Subordinate Courts via an Official Memorandum. It lays down guidelines for the Subordinate Courts to follow post lockdown.

General Guidelines

  1. The Presiding Officer is to ensure that there is no crowding in the Court premises. Therefore, he shall permit only up to 10 people in a Court hall. The Court will allow only advocates, parties and witnesses inside the hall.
  2. The Court shall give preference to cases which need the presence of only the advocates.
  3. Each case will have a time slot with postings divided into morning and afternoon sessions.
  4. Individuals present in the premises will have to strictly adhere to social distancing norms in consonance with the directives.
  5. Courts should not take coercive steps/pass ex parte orders against parties/witnesses not being able to attend sessions due to restrictions.
  6. Courts shall resort to video-conferencing wherever possible. As a result, it shall continue procedures adopted during the lockdown in hotspots and Red-zones. Furthermore, the Website of the District Court must publish the cause list.
  7. In addition, Courts shall give priority to 5+ years old cases or time-bound cases ordered by the High Courts.

Guidelines for Civil Courts

  1. Courts shall not insist on the personal appearance of the parties in the Court or for reference to ADR mechanism. Instead, Courts shall decide on such matters on the submissions of the counsel for both parties.
  2. Every Civil Court shall prepare a restricted cause list. This shall happen in the preceding week. Also, courts shall communicate the same to the local Bar Association and publish it in the notice board.
  3. The cases not in the cause list can be adjourned. This Presiding officer shall do this.
  4. The Court shall consider fresh cases where parties seek urgent interim relief.
  5. Courts may appoint commissioners for recording evidence only sparingly. They must follow physical distancing norms.

Guidelines for Criminal Courts

  1. Courts shall not insist on the personal appearance of accused/parties. However, cases, where their presence is essential, can be exceptions.
  2. Every Criminal Court shall prepare a restricted cause list for a week in the preceding week itself. Further, the framing of charges, the examination of witnesses/accused, final hearing and other cases will be included in the cause list. In addition, the Court will communicate the same to the local Bar Association and published in the notice board.
  3. The Court shall issue a notification adjourning all cases posted to each day. However, this is excluding those in the cause list. Additionally, Courts may take up urgent cases and issue notices to the parties intimating the same.
  4. Petty cases can be taken up for disposal wherever personal appearance is not necessary following the procedure in the Cr.P.C.
  5. Accused shall ensure physical distancing between themselves while in the dock.
  6. Courts shall give the necessary intimation to the prosecuting agency to regulate the number of witnesses.
  7. The Court can remand extension of under-trials by video. However, in exceptional situations, the Court will not use video method such as where police custody is to be given or the presence of the accused is necessary.

Filing

  1. Court procedures must have limited use of paper. Papers used in unavoidable situations should pass through only a limited number of hands.
  2. District Judge shall devise a scheme for the virtual queue if there a large number of cases. Further, courts may allot time slots for filing each case to avoid crowding.
  3. Judicial service centres can be used as counters for filing, the return of defective matters and representation.

Video-conferencing

  1. District Courts, as far as possible, shall hear bail applications through video-conferencing.
  2. Trials or hearing of case/proceedings done through video conferencing should adhere to the guidelines prescribed as per O.M. No. R.10/2020(SS) dated 18.04.2020.

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