IN THE past 17 months – from March 24, 2020, to August 31, 2021 – 1,37,101 cases were filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, of which 90,543 cases have been disposed of, despite the courts working in a restrictive manner during the pandemic, according Punjab and Haryana High Court data.
As per the data, in the district courts of Punjab, from April 1, 2020, to July 31, 2021, 7,23,041 cases were filed and 4,42,693 cases (61 per cent) were disposed of, whereas in the district courts of Haryana, 7,37,718 cases were filed and 3,93,831 cases (53 per cent) were disposed of. In the district court of Chandigarh, 39,595 cases were filed, and 27,767 cases were disposed of. It translates into 70 per cent cases being disposed of.
Vikram Aggarwal, registrar vigilance-cum-PRO, Punjab and Haryana High Court, stated that the current pendency in High Court is 4.5 lakh cases (approximately), and the figure is expected to come down once the software are fully synchronised. Furthermore, most of the cases which were filed but not numbered initially have already been scrutinised and registered. A few cases are pending for scrutiny and the process for the same is going on.
The note issued by the HC mentions that the court had started limited physical hearing with effect from February 8, 2021. The number ofbBenches was gradually increased. As the second wave became more severe, thereby affecting a large number of judges, judicial officers, advocates and staff members, the High Court was forced to go back to restrictive functioning with effect from April 19, 2021, and physical hearing was discontinued. However, all benches kept on functioning through the virtual mode.
As per the note, since the second wave was not relenting and there was a massive surge in the number of Covid cases, functioning had to be restricted further with effect from April 28, 2021. Once the severity of the second wave reduced, all benches of the High Court started functioning again through the virtual mode from June 28, 2021. All this while, judges of the High Court, judicial officers, advocates and staff members were being afflicted with the deadly coronavirus, despite which hearing of cases continued. All urgent cases were being listed for hearing. Of the pending cases, there was liberty to the counsel/parties to move an application if there was any urgency in the matter. Now, from September 6, 2021, limited physical hearing has again been resumed.
“Twelve benches (two division benches, four single benches (civil) and six single benches (criminal)) will hear matters through the physical mode. All other benches will keep on functioning through the virtual mode,” said the note.
The Supreme Court Collegium in its meeting held on September 1, 2021, had approved the proposal for elevation of four advocates as judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Sources said the names of advocates Vikas Suri, senior advocates Vinod Sharma Bhardwaj, Pankaj Jain, and Jasjit Singh Bedi were cleared by the SC. Pankaj Jain, senior standing counsel for UT, and Vinod Sharma Bhardwaj, were designated as senior advocates recently in May 2021. The names of the four advocates were finalised and forwarded by the High Court Collegium in August last year for elevation as judges. These were further forwarded by the Centre to the Supreme Court as late as April this year.
Once appointed, the number of High Court judges will go up to 49 against the sanctioned strength of 85, provided the process is completed before the retirement of sitting Judges.