Supreme Court limits cases in view of coronavirus
Six benches of the Supreme Court will take up on March 16 only 12 urgent matters to avoid overcrowding the courtrooms in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Among the important matters which have been listed for hearing on Monday are anticipatory bail pleas of civil rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case, and a petition by a convict in the Delhi gang rape and murder case.
The apex court, which had on March 13 announced that only six of the 15 benches will be sitting to hear urgent matters, on Saturday issued instructions for the staff, including thermal screening of all employees and closure of cafeterias, as part of the precautionary measures.
On March 6, the top court had extended till March 16 the protection from arrest granted to civil rights activists Navlakha and Teltumbde while hearing the appeal against the last month’s order of Bombay High Court rejecting their anticipatory bail pleas. The matter will be taken up on Monday.
The top court will hear the plea of Mukesh Singh, one of the four death-row convicts in the gang rape and murder case. He has sought restoration of all his legal remedies, alleging that his lawyers had misled him. The plea, filed through advocate M.L. Sharma, has sought a CBI probe into alleged “criminal conspiracy” and “fraud” by the Centre, the Delhi government and advocate Vrinda Grover, who is the amicus curiae in the case.
The top court’s cause list said that the six benches will first take up hearings in only six matters and then the judges will take a break for half an hour. They will resume hearing on another six matters.
In a circular issued on March 13, the apex court had said that no persons except lawyers concerned will be allowed inside its courtrooms. It said the six benches will be made up of Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah; Justices U.U. Lalit and Vineet Saran; Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari; Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta; Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhatt; and Justices S.K. Kaul and Sanjiv Khanna.
The judges will be sitting in court numbers 2, 3, 6, 8, 11 and 14 to avoid overcrowding the court corridors.
On Monday and Friday of every week, the apex court usually functions with 15 benches and takes up mostly miscellaneous matters.
In a notice issued on Saturday, the top court said that the mentioning officer will be available on the premises from 2.30pm to 5pm for listing any urgent matters on March 16. The officer will also be available from 10.30am to 5pm on March 15.
In view of the advisory issued by the Centre cautioning against mass gatherings to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, certain precautionary measures are being put in place in the court.
All cafeterias, including the departmental canteen of the apex court, are being advised to remain closed until further orders and all staff members shall make their own arrangements in this regard.
A circular said that all the staff members are advised to use alcohol-based sanitisers. It pointed out that all staff members may be required to subject themselves to thermal-screening and persons detected with high temperature would be denied entry.
The circular requested all staff members not to gather at any particular place on the Supreme Court premises, except where their presence is officially required.
The apex court has been mulling over the issue at meetings held at the residence of Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde on March 12 and 13 as it took note of the Centre’s March 5 advisory cautioning against mass gatherings and the World Health Organisation’s classification of the virus as a pandemic.