Controversies continue to haunt Punjab and Haryana High Court

February 23rd, 2009 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Feb 23 (IANS) The Punjab and Haryana High Court may have initiated a slew of measures to deliver justice faster to people, but the institution has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons too.

As if the ‘cash-for-judge’ scam, in which the names of two sitting women judges of the high court is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Supreme Court, was not enough to dent the high court’s image, the boycott of the court of Justice Uma Nath Singh by the high court’s Bar Association has added another controversy to the long list.

This is the second time in over a year that lawyers have announced a boycott of the court of Justice Singh. The judge’s court was boycotted by the lawyers for a month last year after he declared a lawyer “insane” and ordered the CBI to take him to the mental asylum in Agra.

The Bar Association has declared now that it will not attend Singh’s court till he is transferred from here. In the latest instance, Singh passed remarks on a lawyer and when the latter complained to the Bar Association, the judge threatened to issue contempt notices to him and the association’s office-bearers.

Lawyers, at the Bar Association meeting, pointed out that Singh and a few other judges have been passing insulting remarks against lawyers.

“The boycott will continue till the judge is transferred from here,” Bar Association president Rupinder S. Khosla told IANS.

Controversies are nothing new to this high court - the only joint court in the country for two states, Punjab and Haryana.

The high court is yet to come out of the embarrassment caused to its name by the ‘cash-for-judge’ scam in August last year. The CBI is probing the case, in which a packet containing Rs.1.5 million was ‘mistakenly’ sent to the house of a new judge, Nirmaljit Kaur, while it was supposed to be delivered to another judge, Nirmal Yadav, for a land deal in Himachal Pradesh.

The money was sent to the judge’s house by former Haryana additional advocate general Sanjeev Bansal and the scam blew the lid off the lawyer-judge-businessmen nexus in this court.

A high-level committee of three senior judges, appointed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, separately probed the ‘cash-for-judge’ scam.

It is the same high court where on April 19, 2004, 25 out of 27 judges went on protest mass casual leave - a thing unprecedented and unheard of in the Indian judiciary. The protesting judges were against then chief justice B.K. Roy summoning two of them to seek an explanation about taking the membership of a controversial and illegal golf resort and club near here.

The golf club’s case was pending before the high court at the time the two judges took its membership.

The virtual ’strike’ by the judges created an uproar nationally in the judicial community forcing the chief justice of India to summon the three top-most judges of the high court and severely admonish them.

In June 2002, the high court chief justice, Arun B. Saharya, withdrew work from three judges whose names figured in the recruitment scam of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) involving its chairman Ravinder Pal Sigh Sidhu.

While the children of two judges benefited with Class-I government jobs in Sidhu’s cash-for-job scam, the third judge got several of his candidates through.

While the PPSC scam controversy lingered, the judges, who were stripped of work, were later restored to their former positions.

In another case, a former chief justice of this high court, V. Ramaswami, was accused of financial irregularities and misuse of official position during his tenure here. The matter reached parliament for impeachment in 1993 but no action was taken against Ramaswami - who became a Supreme Court judge after his tenure here - as parliament got divided over the issue.

Ironically, this is the same high court which launched the first two mobile courts in the country in 2007 and has initiated a campaign in 2008 to clear a backlog of over one million pending cases to make justice delivery more effective.

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