Forty-five names forwarded to the Supreme Court by the Centre for appointment as high court judges include five Punjab and Haryana High Court advocates.
Available information suggests the Punjab and Haryana High Court is also among 14 of 25 HCs across the country to have supported the Supreme Court’s proposition to appoint ad hoc judges for prevailing over the vacancy crisis.
Both developments are significant as the Punjab and Haryana High Court is currently working at nearly half its strength. It has 46 judges against the sanctioned strength of 85. The crisis is expected to deepen with the retirement of three more judges later this year.
As of now, the Allahabad High Court has the highest number of pending cases at 7,83,952. It is followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is facing a pendency of 6,69,944 cases. As many as 2,31,637 cases are pending between one and three years. In the absence of new appointments of judges and the physical hearing of cases, the problem is expected to worsen in the coming months.
It is believed the names forwarded by the government are yet to be placed before the collegium. As such, it was yet to take a decision on recommending the names for elevation. The entire process, under the circumstances, is likely to take time.
The High Court collegium had nine months back recommended to the Centre the names of five advocates — Jasjit Singh Bedi, Pankaj Jain, Vikas Suri, Sandeep Moudgil and Vinod Bhardwaj — for elevation. The file was cleared by both governments of Punjab and Haryana, but the list was pending with the Centre. It is believed the 45 names were forwarded following the SC observations that a reasonable time frame was required to be fixed for the government to respond to the collegium resolution. The observations by the Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice SK Kaul and Justice Surya Kant were made on March 25 during the hearing of a matter related to vacancies in 25 high courts.