KATHMANDU, Oct 5: The services provided by the Supreme Court have been severely affected as many top officials of the court have caught the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), leading to the deferral of hearings on dozens of cases.
"We cannot predict for how long the hearings on these cases will have to be postponed," Baburam Dahal, chief of the Case Division of the Supreme Court, told Republica.
According to him, the hearings on all cases scheduled for Sunday were postponed as several top court officials including justices have contracted the viral disease.
"The hearings on almost all cases scheduled for Sunday were postponed," Dahal said, adding, "The apex court conducted the hearings only on new cases by a single bench of Justice Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma which were registered recently.
A press release issued by the Supreme Court states: "Some justices, officers and other staffers are affected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Therefore some judges, officers and staffers have gone into self isolation/quarantine." However, the press release was silent till when the service will be affected.
The apex court postponed the hearings on 77 cases early in the morning on Sunday which shocked many lawyers who were waiting for the hearings in relation to many habeas corpus cases, hearings relating to bail and the hearings of a number of writ petitions on significant issues.
The hearing on the case against vice-chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Bamdev Gautam, may also be affected if the justices test positive for the coronavirus. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
A few justices, officers and staffers who used to contact the commoners daily tested coronavirus positive but the apex court has not disclosed the names of those affected with the deadly virus.
"We were waiting for the hearings on many cases because the Supreme Court recently resumed its services after a long disturbance created by the coronavirus," senior advocate Tirtha Basoula said. "However, as justices, court officials and staffers have caught the virus, that has seriously affected the court’s services and we cannot predict how long this situation will continue," he added.
The Supreme Court, on normal days, used to hear at least 500 cases but the lockdown and the prohibitory orders imposed by the government to fight against the coronavirus seriously reduced the workload at the top court.
"The court’s services have been affected," advocate Kritinath Sharma said, adding, "There is no clarity till when problems will continue as a fortnightly Dashain holiday begins two weeks later."