More number of judges of the Madras High Court have decided to go in for physical hearing of cases from October 5 despite a majority of lawyers having opted to conduct their cases only through virtual courts ever since six Division Benches of the court alone began hearing cases since September 5.

The Madras High Court has a working strength of 54 judges, including its Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, as against its sanctioned strength of 75. Of them, 15 have been assigned to the Madurai Bench for a period of three months beginning from October 5. The rest of the 39 judges would continue to serve at the principal seat in Chennai.

Early this month, six Division Benches of the High Court began hearing cases through both physical and virtual modes by alternating them in the forenoon and afternoon sessions. Advocates were given the option of choosing to argue their cases either before the physical or virtual court and surprisingly a majority of them chose to conduct cases through video conference.

Safety concerns

The number of cases listed for physical hearing was very thin compared to those listed before virtual courts. Though the judges attempted to persuade the counsel to agree for physical hearing, it was found difficult to convince all the counsel representing different parties since they feared COVID-19 and found it safe to argue cases through the virtual mode.

After experimenting with the conduct of physical hearing through Division Benches, the High Court wanted to know how many more judges were interested in conducting physical hearing from October 5 and found that 26 of the 39 judges in the principal seat were agreeable to it and 13 of them opted to hold proceedings only through video conference.

Hence, it was decided that apart from the six Division Benches, 14 single judges would also hear cases through both physical and virtual modes from Monday. The cases would be listed before the physical court only if all lawyers, representing different parties in every case, were agreeable to it. Other cases would be listed for hearing virtually.

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