The High Court of Karnataka has decided to substantially reopen all courts in the taluks and districts of the State in three phases starting from September 28, and has issued a special Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the functioning of courts.
While courts in 55 taluks identified over different districts will be reopened on September 28, all the courts in 15 districts will be open from October 5. The other courts in the remaining districts will be reopened on October 12, according to the special SOP.
All these courts will list only 30 cases a day — 15 each in the forenoon and afternoon sessions — and there will be separate enclosures for the witnesses inside the court complexes to wait for their turn to enter and record their statements.
However, witnesses and the accused (on bail) will be allowed entry into the court complex only upon production of a negative report of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on the same date along with the summons issued by the court for their physical presence. They can be denied entry if they are found to have symptoms of COVID-19 despite a negative RAT report, the special SOP stated. Also, every court hall is to be modified to physically record the statements of a maximum of five witnesses in the forenoon session each day by setting up the witness boxes and accused dock by covering them with thick plastic sheets. The witness boxes will be sanitised after the statement of each witness is recorded.
At the time of recording of evidence in criminal cases, the accused who are in jail shall not be produced physically and their presence shall be procured through videoconferencing, except in exceptional cases. The rule of producing a negative COVID-19 report will also apply to the police escorting the accused and others to court.
For the time being, entry will not be permitted for private photocopy machine operators, notaries, and typists. The canteens on the court premises will continue to remain closed.
The premises of all bar associations will be opened at all court complexes between 10.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the condition that the seating arrangements are reduced in half. While the parking of advocates’ vehicles will be allowed at the designated places on the court premises, entry will be allowed only for self-driven vehicles upon production of a pass (with photo) by the advocate. These passes will be issued by the respective court administrations on applications received through the recognised bar associations.