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Report No. 14

53. Punjab

1. Area and population:-

The- territory subject to the jurisdiction of the High. Court of Punjab (India) including the Union Territory of Delhi comprises an area of 48,075 square miles inhabited by a population of about 17,878,962 persons.

2. High Court strength.-

The High Court, the principal, seat of which is in Chandigarh, has a strength of fifteen judges including the Chief Justice and four additional judges appointed for a period of two years. This High Court was constituted after the partition of the country in 1947 and started functioning in Simla with seven judges including the Chief Justice. About three thousand pending cases were transferred to it from Lahore.

3. Pendency.-

It must be pointed out that due to the failure on the part of those concerned to increase the number of judges in time, in spite of the requests of successive Chief Justices the arrears have accumulated steadily. In our chapter on the High Courts we have already referred to the great delays in filling up vacancies in this High Court. The following Table (Table No. 1) shows the progressive increase in arrears.

Table No. 1

Cases pending on 1st January,

194.- 2955.

Cases pending on 1st January,

194.- 3114.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 4804.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 4821.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 4578.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 5096.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 5560.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 6191.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 7503.

Cases pending on 1st January,

195.- 11493

4. Need for additional Judges.-

The position in 1956 was described as follows by a Judge of that court:

"Towards the end of 1950, we discovered that the work of this Court was going out of control and we accordingly provided for the appointment of an eighth Judge in the budget estimates for the year 1951-52. Unfortunately, Government were unable to agree to the appointment of this additional Judge and were unable or unwilling to assign any reasons for their refusal." In May, 1953, a communication was sent to the Punjab Government by the Chief Justice "strongly advocating the appointment of an additional Judge.

This communication was unable to elicit a favourable response from the Punjab Government. In February, 1954, the Chief Justice of India expressed the view that unless two more Judges were appointed it would not be possible to tackle the arrears". On the 14th October, 1954, the Chief Justice of the State asked urgently for the appointment of two more Judges. "It is unfortunate that no reply has been received from Government so far although eighteen months have gone by."

It may, perhaps, be mentioned that we have only seven Judges to cope with a pending file of about 7,500 cases whereas immediately before partition the Lahore High Court had as many as fourteen Judges to deal with a pending file of 7175 cases. Even the appointment of two more Judges will not afford us much relief.

"We have several regular first appeals which were instituted as long ago as the year 1949. If justice delayed is justice denied, I am certain we are denying justice to a very large number of litigants. We are certainly lowering the dignity of the Courts and bringing Government into hatred and contempt."

5. The executive seems to have failed to realise that it is as much its duty and responsibility as that of the head of the State Judiciary to see that justice is promptly dispensed. We have not been able to discover the reasons for the failure to add to the number of Judges in time, although it appears that the Chief Justice of India had expressed himself in favour of such a course.

The representative of the Punjab Government stated in reply to a question about the reasons for inordinate delay in the appointment of the High Court Judges that he would not risk an answer; an answer which we found it difficult to understand. According to the figures worked out by us during the years in which the executive showed this woeful neglect in complying with the legitimate demand for an addition to the High Court Judiciary the State earned a surplus of Rs. 13,82,126, Rs. 36,08,368 and Rs. 41,19,574 respectively from the administration of justice.

Two additional judges were appointed on 10th October 1957 only after the rise in pendency consequent on the merger of PEPSU and two more were appointed in August, 1958. The accompanying Tables (Tables Nos. 2 and 3) show the judicial business transacted by the High Court during the triennium ending with 1956, the different categories of proceedings pending on.-1-1957 and the years of institutions of the pending proceedings. Though the appointment of four additional judges will give some relief, we doubt whether even with this added strength it will be possible to bring the file under control within a reasonable time-say, two years.

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