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THOUGH THE Supreme Court has cleared the long-pending Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges and sent it to the Centre on March 14, it has to be seen how much time would it take for the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get more judges as the MoP is yet to be accepted. The HC has been functioning with 54 per cent judges out of its sanctioned strength of 85.
As of now, the HC has 46 judges and around 2.80 lakh cases are pending adjudication. Also, five judges are to retire later this year. Justices M Jeyapaul, Sneh Prashar and Darshan Singh are going to retire in July, Justice SS Saron in September and Justice Rameshwar Singh Malik in October.
A senior HC officer, privy to developments related to the appointment of judges, said, “Till the Centre accepts the MoP, there is no hope of getting more judges.” The officer confirmed that all the12 names of advocates as well as district and sessions judges recommended by the HC collegium last year are still pending with the Supreme Court.
In October 2015, the SC had struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) while upholding the collegium system of appointment of judges. But the apex court had then said that there was a need to make changes in the MoP in order to make judicial appointments more transparent. Ending the impasse, the Supreme Court finalised the MoP and sent it to the Centre on March 14.
The High Court collegium, comprising Chief Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar, Justice SS Saron and Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal, had recommended 10 names to the Supreme Court last June for elevation as HC judges and three names last December. Out of these, only the name of then Patiala District and Sessions Judge Harminder Singh Madaan was cleared and he took oath on December 12, 2016.
It was in July last year that the collegium had recommended the names of seven advocates from the High Court Bar Association for elevation as HC judges. These are former Punjab Additional Advocate General Mahabir Singh Sindhu, former Haryana Senior Deputy Advocate General Rajbir Sehrawat, senior advocate Anil Kshetrapal, Major (retired) Sudhir Mittal, Harnaresh Singh Gill and Avneesh Jhingan. Also, names of three district and sessions judges from Punjab were recommended for HC judgeship. They are HC Registrar General Gurvinder Singh Gill, Patiala District and Sessions Judge Harminder Singh Madaan (now HC judge) and Jalandhar District and Sessions Judge Raj Shekhar Attri.
Then, last December, the HC collegium had also recommended the names of Kuldip Jain, legal remembrancer and administrative secretary of law and legislative department of the Haryana government; Inderjeet Mehta and Anil Kumar Singh Panwar, the then district and sessions judges of Faridabad and Panipat, respectively.