Plea seeks hearings by public authorities via videoconferencing

 thehindu.com  09/16/2020 19:30:41 

Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi along with five others on Tuesday filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Bombay High Court seeking a direction to all the public authorities in Maharashtra to adopt an appropriate videoconferencing platform.

Mr. Gandhi said that on July 29 and August 1, legal notices were sent to the State government through its Chief Secretary. The notices urged the State to issue guidelines and directions to all the public authorities to resume hearings at the earliest by adopting an appropriate videoconferencing platform. However, the notices were ignored and hence, the PIL.

The PIL sought a direction from the HC to conduct all quasi-judicial and administrative hearings under the respective statute applicable to the public authorities concerned, as well as first appeal hearings under the Right to Information Act.

The plea said, Modern technology has enabled courts to enhance the quality and effectiveness of the administration of justice. Technology has facilitated advances in speed, accessibility and connectivity which enable the dispensation of justice in diverse settings and situations without compromising the core legal principles of adjudication.

The PIL further said, Given that the videoconferencing technology fully meets the standard of proof requirement of criminal proceedings, it is humbly submitted that the said technology has all the potential to be very comfortably adopted for the conduct of quasi-judicial and administrative hearings not only for now under the present exceptional circumstances, but as a matter of norm for all times to come in future.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni directed the petitioners to send a copy of the PIL to the State and posted the matter to be heard on September 29.

Apart from Mr. Gandhi, the other five are journalist Vijay Kumbhar, Vivek Velankar, founder of NGO Sajag Nagrik Manch, Bhaskar Prabhu, convenor of NGO Mahiti Adhikar Manch, Jugal Rathi, founder of NGO Mahanagar Parivahan Pravasi Manch, and RTI activist Mohammed Afzal.

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