Rs 79 crore approved for hybrid courts in Delhi: Govt to HC

The division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh asked the government to submit all the information about what was asked for and what has been approved.

The Delhi government Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that an amount of Rs 79.48 crore was approved for implementation of the ‘Hybrid Hearing Project’ in all district courts of the capital. The preliminary estimate for the project earlier was more than Rs 227 crore.

The division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh asked the government to submit all the information about what was asked for and what has been approved. It directed the government to file a chart showing the items which were proposed in the preliminary estimate and the items which have been approved.

“Those items which have not been approved should clearly be highlighted,” said the court while seeking a status report within three days and listing the case for hearing on October 18.

Meanwhile, advocate Shadan Farasat, representing the Delhi government, told the court that infrastructure for hybrid hearings in district and state consumer forums will be installed within the next two months. With regard to other quasi-judicial bodies under the Delhi government, Farasat submitted that they are making an assessment of which ones would require hybrid setup.

The court directed the Centre to also file an affidavit disclosing the steps taken for installing similar infrastructure in tribunals and forums which come under the union government.

“You are caught sleeping. You don’t know anything it seems,” said the court after the central government counsel failed to answer its query on infrastructure required in forums coming under the Centre.

The court had last month observed that the Delhi government cannot be seen to be dithering in providing the necessary infrastructure required for conducting hybrid hearings — physical as well as online — in district courts. It had also said the State incurs a huge expenditure on providing subsidies and issuing advertisements, and the budget envisaged for the hybrid courts would only be a fraction of the same.

The Delhi government had earlier told the court the state law ministry has prepared a preliminary estimate of Rs 227 crore for installation and upgradation of desktops with inbuilt accessories for hybrid hearings, and other infrastructure in all seven district court complexes. The court was also told Rs 12.19 lakh would be spent on increasing the bandwidth provided by existing leaselines. However, the proposal was sent back to the state law minister by the state finance minister on August 27 for further discussion, the government submitted.

The bench was hearing petitions seeking hybrid hearings in courts and other quasi-judicial bodies like consumer forums during the pandemic. It had in March asked the government to inform it about the time the State would need to provide adequate infrastructure for this purpose.

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