SC Orders Re-opening of Lawyers' Offices on Odd-even Scheme Basis (22-05-2020)

In good news for advocates, the Supreme Court has allowed advocates to access their offices on the premises between 10 am to 4 pm on alternate weeks, based on odd-even scheme.

For almost two months, lawyers' chambers were locked due to the outbreak of coronavirus. "To avoid overcrowding inside the Lawyers Chamber Blocks, in terms of the prescribed social-distancing norms, the SCBA and SCAORA may jointly prepare and circulate plan detailing the 'Odd-Even' Chamber Numbers of every Block, which would alternately open on Weekdays (Monday to Saturday) indicating therein the maximum number of persons who may access any Chamber at any point of time," the circular said.

The top court had ordered sealing of lawyers' chambers on the court complex on the evening of March 24.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, the top court has been taking up only extremely urgent matters through video conferencing.

"The Lawyers Chamber Blocks would follow the timings 10 am to 4 pm (Monday to Friday, except holidays) and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Saturday, except holidays), followed by sanitisation of the Blocks; on Sundays and holidays, the Blocks will remain closed for deep cleaning and sanitisation," added the circular.

The apex court took into consideration suggestions from lawyers' bodies, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) while deciding on the fresh guidelines on entry of persons into Lawyers' Chamber Blocks.

The top court has also made wearing masks mandatory for all entrants, and insisted on avoiding air-conditioners in the offices. "There will be a single-entry point to every Block fitted with hand-sanitiser machine provided by the Registry, and manned by the SCBA/SCAORA authorised personnel and SCS staff. The SCBA/SCAORA may inform the Members and their staff that operation of air-conditioning machines in chambers may raise health-concerns in the prevalent pandemic-situation," said the top court. Recently, the apex court has postponed its summer vacation and it will remain functional till June 19.

Entrants, who are found symptomatic during the thermal screening, shall be denied entry into the blocks, added the circular. The circular also added that only member lawyers and their staff can be allowed entry into the chambers blocks on "production of proximity card or letter of authority", and thermal screening is mandatory.

"The Lawyers Chamber Blocks shall have entry only for Learned Members and their staff (on production of Proximity Card or Letter of Authority), who would submit themselves to thermal-screening and duly fill up self-declaration Forms/Daily Registers (containing contact-tracing details), both to be arranged jointly by SCBA & SCAORA, and the SCS shall refuse entry into any Block on non-compliance of this condition," added the circular.

The top court said it would be mandatory to use "stairs while coming downstairs" from lawyers' chambers.


23 May 2020