Plea for hybrid hearings: Delhi HC rues lack of infrastructure in district courts

- December 13, 2023
| By : Patriot Bureau |

The bench instructed officials to visit a district judge's courtroom at Tis Hazari court, which serves as a model for hybrid hearings, urging replication in all courts by March 31, 2024

The Delhi High Court has acknowledged a genuine infrastructure deficit in district courts, reinstating a public interest litigation (PIL) advocating for the adoption of a hybrid hearing system in the subordinate judiciary and quasi-judicial bodies.

The court, led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna, allowed the restoration of the petition, previously disposed of in January 2022 due to the perceived lack of action by the Delhi government in addressing infrastructure needs.

The bench said some of the judges in district courts were holding hybrid hearings using mobile phones of the court staff.

“What is happening right now is that judges are holding hearings on mobile phones. They are taking their court staff’s mobile phone and connecting hybrid hearing through it. They (petitioners) have pointed out a very important thing and we need to look into it,” Justice Manmohan said.

The bench asked officials of the high court to visit the courtroom of the district judge in Tis Hazari court premises where a set-up has been created for hybrid hearings.

“The district judge’s room has been done quite well and it needs to be replicated in all other courts. Take it as a model and get it replicated in other courts. If you can get it done by March 31, 2024, it would be great,” it said.

As the application for restoration of the plea was not opposed by the counsel for the Delhi High Court on the administrative side and the Delhi government, the court allowed it, terming it an important issue.

Central Project Coordinator Abhilash Malhotra informed the bench that the Public Works Department (PWD) had submitted a project report on hybrid hearing which was examined by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) at the request of the high court registrar general’s office.

Notably, some judges are conducting hybrid hearings using court staff’s mobile phones, prompting the court to consider this a crucial issue. The bench instructed officials to visit a district judge’s courtroom at Tis Hazari court, which serves as a model for hybrid hearings, urging replication in all courts by March 31, 2024.

Despite a project report submitted by the Public Works Department, delays were reported, leading the court to instruct the Delhi government to expedite necessary steps and provide updates.

The court directed the high court’s counsel to file an updated status report by January 11, 2024. The petitioners argue that infrastructural gaps persist, hindering the effective implementation of hybrid systems, and express concerns that without court intervention, progress may stagnate.