The Punjab & Haryana HC is staring at a crisis. Of the five names that reached the Top Court collegium, only one has been cleared for elevation as a Judge of the HC. The fate of the other advocates recommended for elevation is not yet known.
Available information suggests the Supreme Court collegium has “approved the proposal for the elevation of Rajesh Kumar Bhardwaj, advocate, as a Judge of the Punjab & Haryana HC” in its meeting held on Aug 17. The HC is currently facing a shortage of no less than 30 judges & a pendency of nearly 6 lakh cases. It is functioning with 55 judges against the sanctioned strength of 85. The problem is expected to worsen as two senior judges heading Division Benches are scheduled to retire in the next few months, followed by many more next year.
Besides, the HC is expected to witness an unmanageable flood of litigations once it reopens for normal operations. Functioning in restricted mode since March-end following the Covid-19 outbreak, the HC has been hearing a limited number of cases through video-conferencing. The cases being taken up are primarily the ones involving an element of public interest or urgency.
The HC collegium has reportedly recommended the names of five more advocates — Jasjit Singh Bedi, Pankaj Jain, Vikas Suri, Sandeep Moudgil & Vinod Bhardwaj — for elevation. This is in addition to the previous list of five. However, the process may take some time because of the lengthy procedure. It can take several months, if not taken up on a priority basis. Bhardwaj’s name was among the five sent sometime in August last year, when the HC was facing pendency of more than 4.7 lakh cases with a shortage of 37 Judges. The list had hit the headlines after an old video clip went viral. It purportedly showed one of the candidates (not Bhardwaj) swinging to the tune of 1980s Bollywood number ‘I am a disco dancer’.
Meanwhile, the collegium also recommended the names of six advocates — Jasmeet Singh, Amit Bansal, Tara Vitasta Ganju, Anish Dayal, Amit Sharma & Mini Pushkarna — for appointment as Judges of the Delhi HC.
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