• Saturday, Sep 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:34 pm

SC issues practice directions for hearing cases virtually

  • Published at 09:20 pm May 10th, 2020
High Court-HC-court
File photo of the High Court Dhaka Tribune

The High Court benches will conduct case proceedings following the 15-point practice directions given by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has issued practice directions for the Appellate Division, High Court Division, and the subordinate courts and tribunals for hearing cases virtually amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The decision was made during a full-court meeting held online with the judges of the two divisions – High Court Division and Appellate Division – of the Supreme Court on Sunday.

The Supreme Court also issued a "virtual courtroom user manual" for lawyers in the meeting. 

It also directed the subordinate court concerned to hear cases related to emergency bail through virtual presence using technology during the ongoing government holiday.

The chief justice issued the directives and the manual in line with the ordinance issued by President Md Abdul Hamid on Saturday allowing regular court activities amid the Covid-19 lockdown in Bangladesh.

‘Virtual court a new chapter in law’

Contacted, Law Minister Anisul Huq said: “This ordinance has opened a new chapter in the country’s history.

“This is groundbreaking. We have no prior experience of conducting court proceedings virtually. But we have started training the concerned personnel regarding this,” he said.

Directions for subordinate courts, tribunals

As per the Supreme Court’s 21-point directions, the subordinate courts and tribunals will only conduct bail petition hearings virtually. 

Lawyers will be able to file their applications in two ways--one is via email, which the apex court will fix, and the second is by following the e-filing system. 

After which, upon the court’s approval, lawyers, who filed the petition, will have to send all necessary documents related to the concerned case to the court as well as to the opposing counsel 24 hours prior (at least) to the scheduled hearing date via email.  

The Supreme Court also said that any recording or broadcasting of the court proceedings done online will be considered as an offence and necessary legal actions will be taken against those responsible.  

The lawyer will join the hearing session using video conferencing platform Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. They will also be allowed to invite other lawyers, with permission from the court, for assistance during the online hearing. 

The concerned judges will be able to take necessary measures if the hearing gets interrupted for any reason.

Total 3 High Court benches formed

The Supreme Court directions did not specify for how long the subordinate courts and tribunals will be hearing petitions online.

However, according to a Supreme Court notice, the High Court benches will be running court proceedings online till further order. 

The High Court benches will conduct case proceedings following the 15-point practice directions given by the Supreme Court. 

Any lawyer wishing to file an application/petition has to write an application to the bench officer of the concerned court along with the reasons for the urgent virtual trial within one page via an email. 

After receiving the online application the court associate will provide a receipt number to the concerned lawyer. 

The concerned judge then will fix a hearing schedule considering the urgency of the matter.  

The court associate will publish the cause list of the concerned case online.

The court will notify the attorney general’s office regarding the hearing schedule and will also provide the office with soft copies of the case documents. 

The court will send a notice to the concerned party about the virtual hearing using a suitable online video conferencing platform. 

The judges here will also be able to opt for any measures necessary for a smooth virtual hearing. 

The High Court also formed three separate benches for hearing urgent cases virtually in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Justice Obaidul Hassan, Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar will lead the benches, said a circular issued on Sunday by the Supreme Court Registrar General as per the directives of Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, said Mohammad Saifur Rahman, special officer of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also issued a 13-point practice direction for its Appellate Division for virtual court proceedings.

On April 26, a full-court meeting, led by the Chief Justice, was held through video conference, where a decision has taken to remove all legal obstacles for conducting virtual court.

An ordinance was promulgated on Sunday (today) allowing courts to run trial proceedings through videoconferences and other digital facilities. President Abdul Hamid promulgated the ordinance. 

Later, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs issued a gazette notification, saying that it will take immediate effect.

The Cabinet on Thursday cleared the draft of an ordinance to pave the way for courts to run trial proceedings through videoconferences and other digital means using information technology.

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