The Madras High Court on Friday decided to restrict its functioning once again and take up only select cases for hearing from Monday since three of its judges and a few more court staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

It has been decided that only two Division Benches and three single judges would hear cases through video conferencing from their residences from Monday so that minimal number of court staff could be deployed for official work.

Immediately after a nationwide lockdown was announced by the Centre from March 24 this year, the High Court had restricted its functioning too and decided to work with just two Division Benches and three single judges for hearing urgent cases alone.

However, then, physical hearings were held in the court halls until April 19 when a staff of the Government Pleader’s office tested positive for COVID-19 and he was found to have attended the court proceedings on a couple of days.

This triggered panic and immediately judges and lawyers were subjected to tests and quarantine.

The High Court also decided to close down all its court halls and ordered that hearings shall be held only through video conferencing from judges’ residences.

Subsequently, it also postponed the summer vacation due in May and continued the virtual court proceedings through that month but from June 1, all judges of the court were asked to hear cases through video conferencing from their chambers in the court complex.

Since then, as many as three judges of the court have tested positive for COVID-19 forcing the Administrative Committee, comprising top seven judges, to convene an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss the further course of action.

After a marathon meeting spanning for a few hours, it was decided to restrict the functioning of the court once again in order to ensure that only minimal number of staff had to be deployed for the hearings. In the meantime, a personal security officer attached to a High Court judge in its Madurai Bench too tested positive for COVID-19. This led to many, including judges and court staff, being tested by a team headed by the Dean of Government Rajaji Hospital.

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