GANDHINAGER, WNS: A division bench of the Gujarat High Court has directed the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) at Ahmedabad to take up the representation made by lawyers concerning streamlining of virtual hearings at the tribunal.
It has also asked the NCLT, Ahmedabad to frame standard operating procedure (SOP) in consultation with the Bar for virtual functioning of the Tribunal within a week of the order.The court said that if the tribunal decides to hear any of the matter through physical hearing then the consent of all the learned counsel appearing in the litigation should be obtained first.
It also said that if any counsel objects to the same then it should not happen that one set of lawyers are heard physically and the others are heard virtually.
It said in such circumstances, the entire hearing should be virtual. It also set aside an earlier order passed by the learned a single-judge bench in this connection.
What is the petition
The matter concerns a petition that had come before a single judge regarding the present platform of physical hearing as well as virtual hearing at NCLT.
The petition said this was completely unworkable. It said the virtual hearings were unstable and full of technical snags. It said both the counsels and litigants faced serious communication barriers and were unable to conduct the matter properly.
The learned Single Judge declined to entertain the writ application essentially on the ground that none of the fundamental rights or any legal rights of the appellant was infringed by the NCLT in adopting a particular mode of hearing.
In other words, according to the learned Single Judge, it is within the discretion of the Tribunal whether to conduct the proceedings by virtual mode or physical mode.
What the division bench said
The high court while setting aside the judgment said that the materials on record indicate that there is an acute problem faced by many lawyers in the NCLT at Ahmedabad as regards to the mode and manner of the functioning of the courts.
It said there was a need for procedures to be followed to be consistent and reasonable so as not to put anyone in difficulty.
Earlier, the counsel for the petitioner said that while the Court No.2 of the Tribunal was consistent in its mode of hearing, the Court No.1 had inconsistent practices regarding the same.
The counsel said if a particular lawyer appeared physically before the Tribunal, then the hearing is conducted in physical form. This happened even though the lawyer for the other side may not be present as he would be expecting the Court No.1 to conduct a virtual hearing.