The High Court at Delhi has issued a new set of rules regarding video-conferencing hearings. Titled -' High Court of Delhi Rules for Video Conferencing of Courts 2021' It was published in the official gazette on Tuesday, the 26th of October. It applies to those courts or proceedings or classes of courts or proceedings as the High Court notifies.
Mentioned as one of the Rules is that the concerned court will try to arrange all the requisite available links to the public to aid them to gain access to court proceedings.
One of the rules also provides to observe the requirement of an open court wherein any individual who would like to view the hearings will be allowed to do so. Exceptions include In-camera proceedings. Any unauthorized recording of the proceeding is strictly prohibited.
It was further added that all the protocols applied in physical courts will apply to virtual proceedings and all statutory provisions such as Contempt of Court, Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Evidence Act, and IT Act of 2000 will apply to these proceedings.
The Court has explained all the facilities recommended for virtual hearing and preparatory arrangments while also keeping in mind the principles for the appearance of a witness, examination of evidence, issuance of summons as well as the cost of video conferencing.
A coordinator shall be appointed at both the Court Point and the Remote Point where any person is required to be examined or heard. The coordinator is vital Remote Point only when a witness or a person accused of an offense is to be examined.
Some Rules Include -
A desktop, laptop, or any other device with stable internet connectivity and an uninterrupted power supply. A working camera, microphone, and speakers to be located at a quiet place backed by adequate lighting as well as provision of firewall and a proper seating arrangement.
“In the Civil Court and the Criminal Court falling under the purview of the District Judiciary persons nominated by the High Court of the concerned District Judge shall perform the functions of Coordinators at the Court Point as well as the Remote Point." the Rules said.
The High Court has also designated officials to be coordinators at Remote Point if the accused is to be examined in foreign locations, jails, hospitals, correction homes, etc. It is mandatory for a translator to be present if the accused to be examined is not familiar with the official language of the court. An expert in sign language should be present if the person is speech impaired and an interpreter or special educator is mandatory if the person is handicapped.
A counsel may request for virtual hearing after discussing the same with the other party. Concerning oral submissions, the court can ask for written submissions as well. The summons issued to people should have the date and time at which appearance is required. The rules further state that an audio-visual copy of the person’s statement will also be kept for record.
The Court will have the discretion to authorize the detention of the accused and frame charges through video conferencing,
"However, ordinary judicial remand in the first instance or public remand shall not be granted through video conferencing save and except in exceptional circumstances for reasons to be recorded in writing. The Court may in exceptional circumstances for reasons to be recorded in writing, examine a witness or an accused under Section 163 of the Criminal Civil Procedure Code or record the statement of the accused under Section 313 of the CrPC through video conferencing, while observing all due precautions to ensure that the witness or the accused as the case may be is free of any form of coercion, threat or undue influence. The Court shall ensure compliance with Section 26 of the Evidence Act" the Court added.
The rules further explain the guidelines for the performance of these proceedings, access to legal aid as well as several other activities related to virtual hearing.