SC to hear plea against Bombay HC’s reduced working hours

The Supreme Court will hear, on February 4, a plea challenging the Bombay High Court’s circular, reducing its working time to three hours in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Thursday listed the matter for next week.

According to petitioner Ghanshyam Upadhyay, the principal bench of the High Court has been “functioning only for name’s sake” causing hardships to the litigants and advocates due to the court’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

In view of the spiralling Covid cases in the city, the Bombay High Court on January 10 had decided to limit its working hours to just three hours each weekday until January 28. The timing of the court is from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. without a lunch break from Monday to Friday, as per the schedule.

Due to the reduced hours, the fundamental rights of citizens are being jeopardised and violated and it was a matter of great concern and public importance, the plea contended.

“The reason seems to reduce the risk for all concerned being infected with new variants, however, it has been forgotten that if all the courts are made functional for three hours in a day, then also such risk is enviable,” it read.

According to the plea, another SOP has directed that from January 3, subordinate courts in Mumbai, Pune, Raigad, and Alibaug to function between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. with 50 per cent of staff on rotation and to hear remand, bail, and urgent matters through physical hearing.

However, there are no requisite infrastructures in these courts for hearing matters through the virtual platform, the plea stated.

It also sought direction for the HC to form guidelines and ensure virtual hearing in all courts in Maharashtra in order to increase the disposal rate of cases.

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