Monday, December 5, 2022

HomeCrisis in HC as 4 senior judges retire in January

Crisis in HC as 4 senior judges retire in January

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has plunged deeper into crisis. Four of its senior judges have retired this month and two elevated as Chief Justices. As of now, the High Court has 36 vacancies of judges and will be working at almost half its sanctioned strength of 85 after the retirement of four more judges later this year. Among the top 10 judges, Justice Nirmaljit Kaur retired today after attaining the age of superannuation.

As of now, the Allahabad High Court has the highest number of pending cases at 7.71 lakh. It is followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is facing a pendency of 6,44,679 cases. In the absence of new appointments of judges and the physical hearing of cases, the problem is expected to worsen in the coming months.

The High Court went into restrictive functioning mode in March last year following the apprehensions of Covid outbreak. After initial hiccups, it is currently hearing over 1,200 cases daily through videoconferencing — a formidable task because of the odds. But primarily matters involving an element of public interest or urgency are being taken up.

An order passed by the High Court now says that limited physical hearing will commence shortly in addition to the present system of hearing matter through videoconferencing. In the first instance, all criminal appeals which are already admitted for the final hearing where accused is in custody will be heard. But advocates are sceptical about significant reduction in the arrears till more courts go into the offline mode. In any case, the High Court is expected to witness an unmanageable flood of litigation once it reopens for normal “physical” operations.

Available information suggests much bigger Allahabad High Court with 95 judges against the sanctioned strength of 168 never really went into restrictive functioning and continued with physical hearing throughout the Covid period with some interruptions in between.The National Judicial Data Grid — the monitoring tool to identify, manage and reduce pendency of cases — suggests 1,03,994 of the total pending cases in the High Court here up to a year old; 2,31,637 are pending between one and three years; 92,551 between 10 and 20 years, and 10,519 cases are awaiting adjudication for the last 20 to 30 years. The collegium has recommended five advocates for elevation. But the process takes time because of the lengthy procedure.

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