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VIRTUAL HEARING

  • Posted By SuperCA
  • On 22 December

VIRTUAL HEARING
 
                                        
INTRODUCTION
 
The Employees' Provident Fund Organization has dispatched virtual knowing about cases to quick track debate goal and evaluation of the duty of labourers. The move is a stage towards the opportune asset body's target of unremarkable appraisal later on. 
 
"With the episode of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to rehearse social separating limitations, virtual hearings are being directed in a large portion of the locale and meetings courts. In a similar soul and with the end goal of giving speedy and moderate mediation to its foundations and endorsers, hearings under areas 7A and 14B of Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, will be directed in a virtual model," the EPFO said in a proclamation. 
 
A virtual court is pointed toward dispensing with the requirement for an actual presence of the prosecutor and legal counsellors.
 
There will be help of e-notification and constant account of procedures and correspondence of requests. 
Case status, including the every day and last requests, can likewise be available to all gatherings on the entry. 
 
EPFO said that the dispatch was made after an effective pilot run at two territorial workplaces of EPFO in July and August 2020. 90 semi legal cases were gone to by higher administration of foundations prompting snappy removals, assent orders and quick compliances.
 
Ministry of Labour and Employment - Dispatch of virtual hearing in semi legal cases under EPF and MP Act, 1952 envoys a time of giving quick and reasonable arbitration
 
In a PIB post dated 14th September 2020, EPFO has announced the launch of virtual hearing in Quasi-judicial cases under the EPF Act, namely inquiry under section 7A to decide the applicability dispute or assessment of dues; section 14B and 7Q for his, her, their, etc. levy of penal damages and interest; section 7B to review the order passed under section 7A; section 7C for determination of the escaped amount and under para 26B for deciding membership dispute. You may find the press release here
 
 
The step was taken for promoting ease of doing business to the employers. The facility was first contemplated by the Hon’ble Minister of Labor and Employment in the 227th meeting of CBT on 9th September 2020. Though the press release said that “virtual hearing utilities have been integrated with EPFO’s e-Court process on Compliance e-Proceedings Portal (https://eproceedings.epfindia.gov.in)”, our experts have found that virtual hearing utilities have not been integrated with e-Proceeding Portal yet.
 
With the flare-up of COVID-19 pandemic and need to rehearse social removing limitations, virtual hearings are being led in the greater part of the region and meetings courts. This is according to the rules of Hon'ble Supreme Court of India and the concerned High Courts to guarantee convenient removal of the cases during pandemic. In a similar soul and so as to give quick and moderate arbitration to its foundations and endorsers, hearings under segments 7A and 14B of Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, will be led in virtual mode. 
 
This is important for a progression of activities taken by EPFO to improve the simplicity of working together, another office for directing virtual hearing in semi legal cases by utilization of secure IT applications, which was dispatched by Sh. Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State (I/C), Labor and Employment in 227th gathering of Central Board of Trustees, Employees' Provident Fund, directed basically on ninth September 2020.
 
Virtual court is an idea pointed toward taking out requirement for actual presence of prosecutor and attorneys by encouraging settling of the case through online mode.
 
For those who are not aware of EPFO’s Compliance e-Proceedings Portal, kindly go through our blog on the subject here – Integration of virtual hearing utilities with Compliance e-Proceedings Portal where employers and other parties have the option of uploading their reply, documents and presenting their case virtually through video conferencing instead of being physically present in the EPFO offices will be of immense help undoubtedly. EPFO claimed that the facility was launched after a successful pilot run at two of its offices. However, the persons attending the inquiry virtually have given feedback that it is being run as make-shift arrangement now since they are no uniformity across the offices in terms of video conferencing tool or the facility of sharing documents by the employers.
 
EPFO in the circular on October 1, 2020 (Click here for the circular)
 
directed all its zonal and regional offices to ensure that hearing in all inquiries including cases remanded by higher judicial forums are to be held in virtual mode only. Still, EPFO has long ground to cover if the facility is to be implemented in the true sense. EPFO Head Office has also left it to Zonal/Regional Offices to identify and select video conferencing application for virtual hearing, which is yet to be done by most of the offices. Even the compliance e-preceding portal has also several glitches that are to be addressed by EPFO.
Virtual court is an idea pointed toward taking out requirement for actual presence of disputant and legal advisors by encouraging mediation of the case through online mode. 
 
To support this, virtual hearing utilities have been facilitated with EPFO's e-Court measure on Compliance e-Proceedings Portal.This will encourage issue of e-sees, ongoing account of procedures and correspondence of requests. Case status including the day by day and last requests will currently be open to all gatherings on the entry. 
 
 
ADVANTAGES
 
There are a few advantages of hearing through video conferencing including no necessity of actual presence wherein parties do make trip miles to be available face to face for hearing and simultaneously; it will be expense and time viable for the businesses. Above all this will lessen carbon impression. Digitization will decrease the quantity of pendency of cases and will be a successful solution for postponed equity.
Moreover, pointless dismissals because of non-appearance of gatherings could now be abstained from bringing about optimizing of question goal and evaluation of the contribution of labourers to produce better trust in the semi-legal system. Hearing in online mode is a move towards a definitive target of anonymous evaluation. 
 
The dispatch was made after a fruitful pilot run of the equivalent at two territorial workplaces of EPFO in the long stretches of July and August 2020. During the pilot run, virtual hearings were led through web-based gathering utilities in 90 semi-legal cases, which were gone to by higher administration of foundations promoting speedy removals, assent orders, and quick compliances. Businesses have valued the straightforwardness and comfort of investment in virtual hearings, especially during pandemics. 
EPFO is constantly making tries to utilize the most recent patterns and advances by viably tackling its in-house capacities to expand nirbadh for example consistent administrations to partners during the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
Filing of documents is also through email as of now which devoid the system of seamless integration. The daily order sheet is also being routed to and fro for resubmission by each party after putting signature/e-sign. There isn’t any automatic log being created for video conferencing held during inquiries. Attendance log could have been created simply by developing an OTP or e-Sign based attendance utility integrated with Compliance e-Proceeding Portal. Similarly, Daily Order Sheet could have been finalized during the proceeding itself had there been functionality of confirmation based on E-Sign/OTP upon creation of Daily Order Sheet.
 
CONCLUSION
 
In short, the intention behind the initiative is quite forward-thinking and is certainly in need of the hour in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The facility is being rolled out at a rapid rate and going by the example of Faceless Assessment in the Income Tax Department, a virtual hearing will be the thing in the future. Employers and other stakeholders need to be abreast of the latest updates and know-how of these facilities. The conduct of a virtual hearing will also expedite the entire process, leaving the employers with a relatively shorter time span to present their case effectively in the inquiry proceedings and hence the department is putting extra efforts in expeditious disposal of inquiries already pending for more than 2 years. For changes/modifications in existing EPF rules due to Social Security Code.
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