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SC Orders Expansion of E-Filing and Hybrid Hearings Across Uttar Pradesh District Courts

SC Orders Expansion of E-Filing and Hybrid Hearings Across Uttar Pradesh District Courts

On Monday (April 15), the Supreme Court directed the Registrar General of the Allahabad High Court to ensure that e-filing capability is made available at e-Sewa Kendras across all District Courts in Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, the Court specified that within two weeks, hybrid hearings before the High Court, facilitated by virtual setups in the District Courts of Western UP, should be conducted in accordance with the Allahabad High Court Rules (Rules of 1952).

The directive stems from a writ petition filed under Article 32, contesting a prior communication dated 28.10.23 from the Registrar General. This communication instructed District Judges statewide to suspend compliance with the directives issued by the High Court on 18.10.23.

On October 18, 2023, the High Court, in its administrative communication, issued the following directives aimed at maximizing the utilization of E-Seva Kendras and enhancing the provision of citizen-centric services to litigants and advocates through e-filing:

"...e-filing facility must be enabled at the e-Sewa Kendras of the District Courts of Uttar Pradesh alongwith the facility of e-affidavit. The option of photo identity verification shall be removed from the process of e-filing at the e-Sewa Kendras of District Judiciary. The litigant/lawyer must appear 'in person' at the e-sewa kendra for e-filing."

Following that, on October 28, 2023, the High Court Registrar General communicated to the district judges, placing the aforementioned directives in abeyance.

Furthermore, the Petitioner also sought a mandamus to establish a dedicated filing counter and virtual hearing facilities in the District and Sessions Courts of Western Uttar Pradesh for conducting hybrid hearings in the Allahabad High Court, pending a decision on establishing a High Court bench in Western UP.

Mr. Pulkit Aggarwal and AOR Ansar Ahmad Chaudhary, representing the petitioner, contended that the communication dated 28.10.2023 from the Registrar General constitutes a denial of access to justice for residents of Western Uttar Pradesh.

In their written submissions, the petitioner emphasized that the lack of a permanent bench of the Allahabad High Court in the Western zone of the state since 1950 has posed significant obstacles for litigants and lawyers in accessing justice. Consequently, the petitioner had previously filed a writ petition in the Apex Court seeking the establishment of a dedicated filing counter and a virtual hearing setup in District Courts to facilitate hybrid mode hearings in the High Court.

The Supreme Court, on August 28, 2022, declined to entertain the writ petition, granting liberty to the petitioners to approach the Registrar General of the Allahabad High Court regarding the matter. Subsequently, the communications of October 18 and October 28, 2023, occurred.

Therefore, Mr. Parmeshwar submitted the following points: (1) Regarding e-filing by litigants, the provisions outlined in the circular dated October 18, 2023, should be reinstated. (2) Concerning filing through an advocate, Rule 3A(i) specifies that an advocate not on the rolls of advocates in the Allahabad and Lucknow High Courts cannot appear or plead in the High Court solely by filing an appointment, unless accompanied by an advocate enrolled in Allahabad and Lucknow, respectively. Thus, his contention was that Rule 3A must be considered for advocates to participate in filing for hybrid hearings of cases in the High Court.

The bench also took note of Rule 3A(iii), which stipulates that the roll of advocates must include the name and other pertinent details, including residence and office, which must be within the confines of the city of Allahabad and Lucknow, respectively, as applicable.

Taking into account the aforementioned provisions concerning the High Court Roll of Advocates and the procedure for advocates not on the High Court rolls to appear, the bench observed that the High Court has the discretion to enforce compliance with the discussed provisions to ensure the efficient operation of the E-Seva Kendras.

The bench asked the Registrar General of Allahabad High Court to comply with the directions within a period of 2 weeks.

Case Details: MD ANAS CHAUDHARY vs. REGISTRAR-GENERAL HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD W.P.(C) No. 001429 - / 2023

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