The ongoing protests by the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association against the setting up of a tribunal, which will deal with service-related matters of Haryana government employees, intensified Tuesday with lawyers staging a dharna outside the gates of the high court.
The judicial work remained suspended as lawyers abstained from attending courts. They are demanding that the orders to set up Haryana Administrative Tribunal be revoked. They claim that the notification to set up the Tribunal was issued on July 24 without any infrastructure in place.
The decision to set up the Tribunal was taken much earlier by the state government. A large number of lawyers, including the bar association president DPS Randhawa, assembled outside the court building and sat on a protest. They raised slogans against the Haryana government and demanded the withdrawal of the notification.
“In continuation of the protest and to show unity amongst the legal fraternity, the members of the HCBA staged a dharna at various gates of the High Court Complex denying access to lawyers, litigants and officials. However the staff was allowed in to perform their duties. The action of a ‘symbolic shut down of the High Court’ was taken as necessary powers enshrined under Article 226 and 227 of the constitution of India are being jeopardized by the said ‘tribunalisation’,” said Bar Association secretary Rohit Sud.
He said that the “tribunalisation” is “bad for the country” as the presiding officers of the administrative tribunal would “not be able to fully justify” the service matters and “would have the bent of mind towards the government and the ultimate sufferer would be the litigant as it would be headed by retired judges and bureaucrats”.
The lawyers allege that the Tribunal members will not be able do justice like the High Court judges. They also claim that their work will be affected. Prior to notification, the service matters were directly heard by the state.
The association’s executive committee on Thursday had unanimously decided to suspend work for an indefinite period of time to protest the government notification. “The decision was conveyed to the Hon’ble Chief Justice as following the notification by the Haryana government, the benches hearing the Haryana service matters have stopped taking them up,” a Bar spokesperson said.
The lawyers have also submitted a memorandum to the Haryana governor against the move. Among the various objections it has raised against setting up of the Tribunal, the association claims that the notification was issued without any infrastructure in place.
The state government has said the tribunal was essential in view of the increasing number of court cases, particularly those relating to employee service matters and disputes. On Tuesday, senior Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Singh Chautala condemned the government decision to set up the tribunal in spite of the bitter opposition to it.
“It is ironical that while the state governments of Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh were in the process of winding up such administrative tribunals, the Haryana government had wilfully chosen to experiment with the folly. This step, instead of facilitating justice to the employees, will only add another hurdle in the process of seeking justice. Now the employees will first approach the tribunal and if not satisfied with it, they will then approach high court before appealing in the Supreme Court. The entire process will prolong the wait for justice,” he said in a statement here.
Chautala said as things stand today, more than one lakh cases will be transferred from the high court to the tribunal which will have to hear them afresh. “There are many cases that are on the verge of being decided but now they too will be heard by the tribunal all over again which will further delay justice,” said Chautala.
He urged the M L Khattar government to withdraw its decision to set up tribunal.