The Madras High Court will not resume physical hearings from January 3 as was earlier announced, it was said on Sunday, January 2. Acting Chief Justice Justice MN Bhandari issued orders owing to a spurt in cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. The orders apply to the functioning of the Principal Seat in Chennai, as well as the Bench in Madurai and all the subordinate courts in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, said a notification from P Dhanabal, Registrar General of the Madras High Court. "Physical hearing and hybrid option before all courts shall remain suspended. All hearings shall be through virtual mode only," it said.
Filing of papers, copy applications and receiving the order copies among others in emergent matters alone would be through e-mail and in exceptional cases, it shall be through the respective counters/drop boxes provided for the purpose subject to strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocol, it said. This arrangement shall be operational from Monday till further orders, it added.
Last week, a notification said the Madras High Court would have only physical hearing of cases from January 3. "It is made clear that hearing of cases will be only through physical mode in the Madras High Court (both at Principal Seat and at Madurai Bench)," with effect from Monday, January 3, the notification said.
The Madras High Court first suspended physical hearings in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in India. In June that year, the court resumed hearing cases in person. However, it had to quickly suspend them again after a few judges tested positive for the coronavirus at the time.
The High Court opted for a hybrid model in February 2021, wherein advocates and lawyers were able to argue their cases physically in court, while participating virtually in other matters.