The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, held the first sitting of its Constitution bench since March 5, through video conferencing. The five judges of the bench, namely Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose appeared wearing masks and maintaining a nearly two-feet distance between themselves on the bench.
The apex court moved into virtual mode on March 25, when the Covid-19 induced lockdown started in India. The Constitution bench takes up critical matters which require an interpretation of the Constitution
Several matters are pending before the Constitution bench. These include the matter on religious practices restricting the entry of women in mosques, Parsi worship places and the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, petitions challenging the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, accorded under article 370 and 35A of the Constitution, and the legality of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by the parliament in December last year, granting citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring Islamic countries, among others.
Earlier this month, the top court allowed court summons and notices to be delivered through email, fax or messaging applications such as WhatsApp. The court noted that two blue ticks upon sending a summons on WhatsApp would mean that the recipient has received the summons. However, for users who have changed their WhatsApp setting and disabled the ‘blue tick’ feature, the summons would be sent through email and fax, and it would constitute successful delivery of the summons.
Amid the country-wide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, SC judges have been conducting hearings through video conference, on the Canada-based platform ‘Vidyo’, but have lately returned to the courtrooms. While the respondents in the court are still required to attend only through video conference, the lawyers argue from their respective chambers.
Meanwhile, the Standing Committee on Information and Technology met in parliament on Tuesday, with just eight out of the total of 30 members in attendance. Reportedly, the committee’s members had planned to hold virtual meetings, since most of the committee’s members are in their home constituencies and are unable to travel due to the pandemic. However, they were denied permission for the same by Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla’s office, saying that using video conferencing as a medium for hosting parliamentary meetings violates the confidentiality clause.