Virtual hearing option open for lawyers during pregnancy: SC

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ByAbraham Thomas, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a petition to keep the option of virtual hearings open for the benefit of working women lawyers who have to sacrifice their careers during pregnancy, or while providing maternal care to their newborns.

A petition by a Delhi-based lawyer Esha Mazumdar, contending that virtual courts offering working women a balance to manage both professional and personal duties, said: “An option ought to be given to women lawyers to opt for virtual hearing during pregnancy and thereafter for at least 26 weeks till the women are sufficiently independent to start appearing physically before Courts.”

It further stated, “Since right to pregnancy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, every effort ought to be made to see that the fundamental right is not violated only because a woman is constrained to choose between pregnancy and her career.”

A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai agreed to hear the petition. Two petitions seeking continuation of virtual hearing before the Supreme Court and high courts are pending consideration before the top court. The court issued notices to the Centre, the Bar Council of India, the Supreme Court of India and all high courts, and posted the matter for hearing on December 6 along with the two pending petitions.

However, the bench sounded caution by saying, “We want courts to open up first and thereafter we want to create exceptions… We must consider that all this was not an issue before the pandemic. Tomorrow teachers will approach the Court to provide for right to teach through virtual classroom. We cannot allow lawyers as a separate class.”

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