Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

‘Very difficult times’: SC judge as tech staff tests Covid positive

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Justice M.R. Shah on Thursday said all his staff members involved in arranging virtual hearings have tested positive for Covid-19.

Justice Shah was sitting on a bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud as it took up a case through video-conferencing. In the pre-lunch hearing, he broke the news to the lawyers.

“Can we take a break for 10-15 minutes? My entire virtual staff has tested positive…,” he said.

At this, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati said the court should take its own time to deal with the situation. The bench then rose and informed the lawyers that it will reassemble at 2 p.m.

However, only Justice Chandrachud appeared on the screen at 2 p.m. and as ASG Bhati asked him about the well-being of the judges, replied that Justice Shah is attending to the situation at his residence.

Justice Chandrachud told the counsel since the matter is a part-heard, he will continue with it. The top court was a plea challenging the constitutionality of West Bengal Housing Industry Regulation Act, 2017 (HIRA).

“But we will hear only this today, the rest of the board will not be taken up…,” he said.

After some time, Justice Shah also appeared on the screen and expressed his willingness to continue hearing the matter. “I have no difficulty…let us continue with the matter,” he said.

The counsel in the matter said the Covid situation has gone out of control. Justice Shah said: “These are very difficult times.”

Few days ago, 44 staffers at the top court had tested positive for Covid-19. However, the top court’s functioning has not been affected in any way. The benches subsequently did not assemble in courtrooms to take up cases, but instead conducted virtual hearings from their home-office.

A notification on Monday said, the top court benches, which used to assemble at 10.30 a.m. and 11 a.m., would assemble one hour late. A sanitation drive would be carried out on the entire court premises, including courtrooms, and the judges will take up matter virtually from their residences.

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