The Supreme Court has decided to limit its functioning due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and hold hearing of only six out of 15 benches on Monday.
The six benches will take up for hearing only urgent matters and no persons, except lawyers concerned, will be allowed inside its courtrooms.
According to the circular issued by the apex court on Friday, the six benches will comprise 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, Justices S K Kaul and Sanjiv Khanna.
On Monday and Friday of every week, the apex court usually functions with 15 benches and take up mostly miscellaneous matters.
Earlier in the day, a notification issued by the apex court said it had been decided that from Monday, it would take up for hearing only urgent matters.
It said that instead of the courts already notified for Monday, only six benches would be taking up urgent matters and no constitution bench or special bench matters would be taken up.
The circular said a revised list of matters to be taken up by these benches would be issued and the benches for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday would be notified later.
The apex court has been mulling over the issue in its meetings held at the residence of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde on Thursday and Friday, as it took note of the Centre”s March 5 advisory cautioning against mass gatherings and the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a ”pandemic”.
The apex court”s notification, issued by its secretary general Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar, said it had been decided that its functioning would be restricted to urgent matters.
“On reviewing the advisory issued by the Government of India and in view of the opinion of public health experts, including medical professionals, and also considering the safety and welfare of all the visitors, litigants, lawyers, court staff, security, maintenance and support staff, student interns and media professionals, the competent authority has been pleased to direct that the functioning of the courts shall be restricted to urgent matters with such number of benches as may be found appropriate,” the notification said.
“It is hereby notified that no persons, except the lawyers who are going to act in the matter that is either for argument or for making oral submissions or to assist along with one litigant only, shall be permitted in the courtroom,” it said, adding that the mentioning of matters for urgent hearing would be made only before the mentioning officer.
The apex court has sought cooperation in this regard considering the importance of the safety measures to maintain public health.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) secretary Ashok Arora had said on Thursday that a meeting was held at the residence of the CJI to discuss the coronavirus outbreak and the possibility of limiting the top court”s functioning.
Besides the CJI and Arora , Justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit, Attorney General K K Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and officials of Union Health Ministry and Union Law Ministry attended the meeting to discuss the issue.
India reported its second casualty due to coronavirus on Friday after a 68-year-old woman, whose son with a travel history abroad had tested positive, died in Delhi.
According to the Union Health Ministry, the number of novel coronavirus cases in India stands at 82, which include 16 Italians and a Canadian.
Several states across India went into battle mode to contain the spread of COVID-19, shutting down schools, theatres and colleges, and many public events, including the IPL, were postponed.
Cases of the infection have been reported from at least 11 states and territories, including Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala, where three patients were discharged last month after they recovered.