In view of the Office Memorandum dated 5th of March, 2020 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, by way of an advisory cautioning against mass gathering and the World Health Organization having declared Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) as global pandemic advising against mass congregation, as also taking note of the decision of the Government of Bihar issued by the General Administration Department through letter No. 3736 dated 13th March, 2020 and on reviewing the present circumstance, the Hon’ble the Chief Justice has been pleased to take emergent measures and held meeting with the Hon’ble Judges of the Court, the Members of the Registry and also held interaction through Video Conferencing with the District Judges. Hon’ble the Chief Justice and the Senior most Hon’ble Judges of this Court have also held meeting with the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar and the Principal Secretary, Department of Health, Government of Bihar to take stock of the situation and discussed the remedial measures some of which required to be taken at the earliest are as follows:
(i) A team of 10 members from the Registry has been constituted to connect with a Nodal Officer, now designated in each of the District Courts, for purpose of overseeing the sensitization of the officers and staff involved in the Court premises and the sanitization of the Court Complexes and other amenities.
(ii) The Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar and the Principal Secretary, Department of Health, Government of Bihar shall ensure that they will organize awareness camp in the premises of the Patna High Court on 17th April, 2020 at 11:00 A.M. for benefit of the Hon’ble Judges, learned Advocates, members of Registry, Staff and litigants.
After aforesaid discussions and deliberations, the Hon’ble Chief Justice has been pleased to issue the following advisories to the District Courts in the State of Bihar:-
(i) The Presiding Officers of the Court should not insist on the physical presence of the parties unless considered unavoidable.
(ii) All the respective District & Sessions Judges and the Principal Judges, Family Courts, would take appropriate measures to regulate entry of the litigants and the general public in the Court premises in order to ensure less crowding.
(iii) The lawyers may be requested to advise their clients not to visit the Court unless their physical presence is directed by the Court.
(iv) For the present, this decision has been taken to be applicable till 31st March, 2020. Till such date, no adverse/default orders will be passed in the matters where parties/lawyers are found to be absent.
(v) The learned Advocates/parties/witnesses, who may be seeking an adjournment, be accommodated. Only in exceptional circumstances, the Court may refuse to grant an adjournment.
(vi) In criminal matters, the accused may be granted exemption from personal appearance for the time being and subject to further orders.
(vii) Video Conferencing may be put to maximum use for the purpose of recording of evidence and instead of the physical production of under-trial prisoners from jails, facility of Video Conferencing, wherever available, be availed of.
(viii) The District and Sessions Judges in consultation with the Prisons Authorities shall ensure that there should not be any crowding in the lock-ups and in this regard, appropriate measures be taken for sanitizing of the lock-ups and the persons placed there be sensitized.
(ix) The hearing matters may be postponed for the present.
(x) The Medical Dispensaries in the Court complexes be kept ready and fully equipped to tackle any emergent situation. The District Judges in coordination with District Administration should take preventive measures immediately.
(xi) The District & Sessions Judges shall ensure that a sufficient amount of sanitary items i.e. soap, sanitizers, thermal screening thermometers, etc. be procured. If sufficient fund is not available, the Registrar General, Patna High Court be informed immediately.
(xii) Dedicated/Core team to be formed (preferably District Judge be the Nodal Officer) in each district complex for monitoring the remedial steps.
(xiii) No functions, where public gathering is expected, be organized during this period. All efforts be taken to minimize the foot-falls in Court complexes.
(xiv) The Judge Incharge of the Mediation Centre of all the District Courts shall postpone the mediation proceedings for the present.
(xv) Yardstick prescribed for disposal of cases will not be strictly followed till 31st March, 2020.
(xvi) The Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, has been asked to take measures with regard to Juvenile Justice Board/ Observation Homes/Shelters Homes and all the jail premises of the State of Bihar.
Patna High Court
[Notice dt. 15-03-2020]