People file cases physically for online hearing by 33 benches of the High Court Division and two benches of the Appellate Division amid the COVID-19 prevalence.
Other activities of the online courts are also held physically, exposing the judges, lawyers, staff and litigants to COVID-19 infection.
Lawyers, court staffs and litigants demanded that all activities of the online courts should be held electronically for the protection against coronavirus infection and delivery of quick services to the litigants.
Until December 27, 2020, a total of 181 judges and 420 employees of lower courts and the Supreme Court tested positive for COVID-19, SC spokesperson Mohammad Saifur Rahman told New Age on Saturday.
Jurist Shahdeen Malik said that 56 HC judges kept holding hearings online but writing orders or judgements physically in the presence of bench officers.
He said that no mechanism had yet been introduced for sending online orders or judgements to various despatch sections of the High Court and communicating them to the government functionaries.
Shahdeen said that the number of cases filed with the Supreme Court decreased as litigants did not turn up to the court unless they felt it urgent.
Supreme Court lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said that he became used to online court activities although, he said, he did not enjoy the online courts as he enjoyed the regular courts.
‘I can’t express what I want to say to online courts the way I could tell regular courts,’ he said.
Online hearings, he went on, are disrupted some times because of power cuts, adding that many lawyers could not be acquainted with the online court system.
Lawyer Shishir Manir demanded that the whole judiciary should be fully digitised to ensure the benefits of online courts for the litigants.
Shishir said that there were allegations of corruption in July in posting cases on the cause list for online hearing as the Mycourt App could not be introduced for filing cases and posting them on the cause list maintaining serials.
The High Court has resumed physical operation since August 12, along with online proceedings, 140 days after it was closed due to the COVID-19 situation.
Nineteen HC benches have been conducting physical hearing since the reopening of the High Court both ways.
The two Appellate Division benches have been operating online since July 12.
The lower courts returned to normal on August 4, 133 days after they were closed due to the COVID-19 situation.
SC spokesperson Saifur said that 72,229 accused, 761 of them juvenile, were granted bail against 1,47,339 applications in 58 working days between May 11 and August 4.
He added that the Appellate Division had disposed of over 6,500 cases since the online court operation began on July 12.
As of December 31, 2019, Saifur said, over 30.53 lakh cases were pending with the lower courts while 4.89 lakh with the High Court.
There were 23,617 cases pending with the Appellate Division, he added.
The Supreme Court Registrar General office, he mentioned, had no information about the cases disposed of by the single benches of the High Court and the chamber court of the Appellate Division through video conferencing since June 10, 2020.
Primarily there were no physical activities in the proceedings of the online courts but now these courts have resumed physical activities except in the hearing, Saifur pointed out.
On July 9, 2020, the Jatiya Sangsad enacted into law the Use of Information Technology by Courts Ordinance 2020 promulgated by the president in May empowering the judges to operate online courts as part of the e-judiciary project.
The government revived the Supreme Court-proposed electronic judiciary project after a lapse of three years as the regular court proceedings were halted due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Attorney general AM Amin Uddin told New Age in the past week that the Supreme Court proceedings were held physically and virtually as per the desire of lawyers and for the safety of the judges.
Most of the Supreme Court judges and lawyers are senior citizens who are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, he added.
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