Video conferencing apps are the talk of the earth since COVID-19 lockdown and slowdown. Now Webex, Zoom, Google meet and other such apps are a household name. We all are using these apps for our Board Meetings, General Meetings and court hearings. However, none yet officially recognised WhatsApp as a tool assisting us in the court hearing, but it is doing its role without a celebrity public appearance.
(The process discussed starting now is regarding NCLT/NCLAT.)
Court hearings in electronic mode are now in its sixth month. The process is now a usual standard. Most proceedings directly involve email, WhatsApp and video conferencing software.
[UPDATE: The process has been changed since November 2020. Now Virtual Reception on WhatsApp is not present and link to the meeting room is shared on the cause list itself.]
We get an email post working hours about the cause list for the next day. When we are busy in the preparation of our case, our court officers and staffs are working for the smooth functioning of following day schedule.
Late evening (sometimes at night) a day before the hearing or early morning same day, NCLT officers put you in a WhatsApp group created referencing court, date and item number. If I have a matter in 31st October 2020 (otherwise Saturday) the group name may be <31st Oct SN 104 SB Del-4”. All parties in person, advocate, company secretary and court officers for the item number 104 for date 31st October 2020 listed before the Special Bench constituted for Court number 4 of NCLT Delhi will be in this group. This WhatsApp group is the reception hall for virtual hearing before the NCLT. You will stay focused but idle in the group until one or two matters before your item. Suddenly, you will get the joining link for the hearing with its password, if any. The officers will ask you to wait in the lobby. Stay calm, knock the door. Just click the link.
The software will take you at the door of the meeting room – the virtual courtroom. It is akin to seeking permission to join the meeting – court hearing. The court officer will not immediately accept you inside the meeting room or the virtual courtroom. You will see a message – you will be in the meeting once host receive you as a guest (not precisely in these words).
This screen serves you as a virtual lobby or waiting room. While you are waiting, the court staff is working with exactness. As soon as the bench finish earlier matter and pronounce – next item. The court staff will take you inside the virtual courtroom. Now, it is your turn to represent your matter. You know what to do here. As soon the bench finishes your case and pronounces again – next item, you either leave the room, or the court officer will remove you from the meeting. You and court officer both will click the button almost simultaneously.
In case you need any assistance or have a query, the WhatsApp group shall remain there until your next date. Practically, you will remain to stay in the virtual reception of the NCLT until your matter disposes of finally. A good practitioner may be in 20-30 such virtual receptions all the time. Stay there.
Please do not post message unless it is of officially high priority.
NCLAT has a slightly different methodology. Its officers create WhatsApp groups date wise. All litigants, advocates and company secretaries shall become members of the group for the next day. This WhatsApp group serves as the reception of the NCLAT.
NCLAT officers will mail you the link for the electronic hearing in advance but request you not to log in until they ask you to log in. They usually invite you to join in batch – like all person related to first five matter may log in and wait in the lobby. This lobby is the same as that of NCLT- the host will take you in when the case come before the bench. Rest of the process is identical. They will remove you from the virtual courtroom (video conferencing software) immediately and from the virtual reception (WhatsApp) same day.
Aishwarya Mohan Gahrana
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