January 31, 2021 2:59:30 am
Since the advent of Covid-19 outbreak in India— when physical hearings were suspended and the courts were functioning virtually— the tally of pending cases at the Punjab and Haryana High Court has increased to over six lakh, in comparison with over five lakh last year.
As per records on the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), there are a total of 6,46,501 cases pending at Punjab and Haryana High Court, against 5,28,340 pending cases last year. Among the pending cases, 3,76,333 are civil cases and 2,70,168 are criminal cases. The NJDG site also states that among the pending cases, 1,05,816 (16.37 per cent) are less than a year old; 2,31,637 (35.83 per cent) cases are 1-3 years old; 97,787 (15.13 per cent) cases are 3-5 years old; 1,08,191 (16.73 per cent) cases are 5-10 years old; 92,551 (14.32 per cent) are 10-20 years old; and 10,519 (1.63 per cent) are pending for over 20 years at the high court.
The data said that about 58,981 cases were filed here between March 24 and September 30 last year, of which 23,474 cases could be disposed of. In the number of pending cases, Punjab and Haryana High Court ranks only after Allahabad High Court, where 7,71,693 cases are pending.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court is also short of 36 judges, after the retirement of four judges and transfer of two judges this month. In 2021, Justice S N Satyanarayana, who had joined the Punjab and Haryana High Court in May 2020 during the Covid-19 period, retired this month without being able to hold any physical hearing. Apart from Justice Satyanarayana, Justice Daya Chaudhary, Justice Rekha Mittal, and Justice Nirmaljit Kaur retired on January 27. Further, Justice S Muralidhar has been elevated to Chief Justice HC Orissa, while the Supreme Court Collegium has also recommended to appoint Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Justice P. V. Sanjay Kumar as the Chief Justice of Manipur High Court.
The High Court now has 49 Judges against the sanctioned strength of 85. The collegium has recommended five advocates for elevation, but the process may take time because of the lengthy procedure.
Three court rooms set up for physical hearing
In a bid to gradually start physical hearings at the high court, as an initial step, at least three court rooms have been set up for physical hearings, keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind.
As per an order, the criminal appeals which are already admitted for final hearings and where the accused is in custody will be heard through physical hearing. Meanwhile, no application for physical hearing has been received. At present, 1,500 cases are listed for hearing every day through video conferencing.
However, during the period of restrictive functioning, around 1 lakh cases were listed in the HC and nearly 50,000 cases have been disposed of. Ordinary filing of cases is going on since June 2020, and these cases will also be taken up for hearing as soon as normal functioning of the court resumes.
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