India's three-tier justice delivery mechanism may have been panned as snail-paced, but during the lockdown period the Supreme Court of India emerged as the global leader in entertaining 5,007 cases through virtual court hearings.
The SC reached the 5,000 case milestone on the 53rd day of virtual court hearings during lockdown on Monday, when 10 benches took up 240 matters. "During lockdown period, starting from March 23, a total of 559 benches - 249 main matters benches and 310 benches for review petitions - have taken up 5,007 cases for hearing," SC registry sources told TOI.
Participation of lawyers in virtual court hearings also increased steadily, from 1,594 on May 27 to 2,893 on June 3. For single matter pertaining to Amrapali housing scam on Friday, more than 3,000 video links were shared with advocates by the Supreme Court, a record since the apex court went into virtual mode. The SC also pronounced 99 judgments from March 23 till date.
There appears to be no competition from any of the top courts from other countries, which also resorted to virtual court process for hearing cases during lockdown period to prevent spread of Covid-19. United Kingdom's Supreme Court heard a total of 10 cases from March 24 till date and pronounced 15 judgments.
There is no data available about the number of cases heard through virtual mode by the US SC, which in any case takes up 100-150 petitions for hearing every year from among 7,000-odd filed seeking review of decisions of other courts. US SC pronounced 20 judgments between march 30 and June 8.
Australia's top court heard 94 cases and pronounced 12 judgments between April 7 and June 3. Canadian Supreme Court took up for hearing 173 cases between March 27 and June 11 and delivered five judgments during that period. South African SC herd 51 cases during the lockdown period and delivery 58 judgments.
Singapore SC heard 146 cases and passed 98 judgments during lockdown. Only Spanish SC had a busier schedule than other SCs as its virtual courts heard 800 cases.
On the issue of resumption of physical courts, none of the Supreme Courts have taken any decision and have continued hearing of cases with virtual courts. The only exception is the European Union's court of justice, which resumed oral hearing from May 25. Singapore's top court also allowed to permit physical hearing in very limited number of cases at the discretion of the court after maintaining social distancing and taking other precautions.
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