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Report No. 14

6. Enhancement of powers of a single judge.-

At present, a judge of the High Court sitting singly cannot hear and dispose of first appeals against decrees. A single judge can dispose of all second appeals valued upto Rs. 2,000 in land suits and Rs. 5,000 in other suits including cross-objections. This, perhaps, accounts for the low disposal of first and second appeals in the High Court.

Litigation in this State except perhaps in matters of customary law is not more complicated than in other States and we recommend that a judge of the High Court sitting singly should be empowered to hear and dispose of all first appeals valued upto Rs. 10,000 and all second appeals irrespective of valuation. We are confident that the enhancement of single judge's powers to the limits aforementioned will without affecting in any manner the soundness of the administration of justice contribute to the expeditious disposal of cases.

Enhancement of jurisdiction of district judges.- The following Table (Table No. 4) shows the institution of regular first appeals of different valuations during the triennium 1954-56. It will be clear from the statement that the institution of first appeals in the High Court can be reduced by about fifty per cent, if the appellate powers of the District Judges were to be enhanced to Rs. 10,000. This may be done and pending proceedings below that value transferred to the district courts to relieve pressure on the High Court.

Table No. 4

1954

1955

1956

Regular First Appeals Below Rs. 5000

29

23

32

Between Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10,000

125

106

103

Above Rs. 1 0,000

155

143

116

7. Circuit Bench.-

A Bench of the High Court popularly known as the Circuit Bench has been sitting in Delhi since 1952 under the provisions of the Letters Patent of the Lahore High Court. Originally, the judges of the High Court used in turn to go in circuit to Delhi in batches of two to dispose of the proceedings arising within the Delhi area. But, for some time past, this system has been changed and two judges have been sitting in Delhi throughout the year, the roster in Delhi being changed only at the end of a year.

Apart from the arguments generally advanced in favour of establishing Benches, it was also urged that the Delhi Bench was made for the convenience of litigants from different parts of India who had to seek redress in the Punjab High Court in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Saka Venkata Rao's case. But the number of such cases would be small. Some witnesses however expressed the view that the Circuit Bench had been established not because the circumstances warranted it but because the persons in authority had to yield to political pressure and advocated abolition of the Bench. We do not find any sufficient reason for not adhering in this case to the views expressed by us in our chapter on the High Courts.

8. Subordinate courts.-

Section 18 of the Punjab Courts Act, 1918, provides for the establishment of three classes of courts in addition to the courts of small causes established under the provisions of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887; they are the Courts of District Judges, the Courts of Additional District Judges and Courts of Subordinate Judges. The Courts of Subordinate Judges have been divided into four classes, namely, First Class, Second Class, Third Class and Fourth Class. The pecuniary jurisdiction exercised by the different classes of subordinate judges and judges of small cause courts is set down in the following Table (Table No. 5).

Table No. 5

In Regular Suits

1. Sub-Judge 4th Class, Not exceeding Rs. 1,000.

2. Sub-Judge 3rd Class, Not exceeding Rs. 2,000.

3. Sub-Judge 2nd Class, Not exceeding Rs. 5,000.

4. Sub-Judge 1st Class, Unlimited.

In Small Cause Suits

1. Judge, Small Cause Court, Delhi, upto Rs. 1,000.

2. Judge, Small Cause Court, Amritsar and Simla, upto Rs. 500. Some Sub-Judges are invested with Small Cause Court powers to try suits valued between Rs. 50 and Rs. 250, where necessary.

Pecuniary Jurisdiction of Sub-Judges in the erstwhile State of PEPSU

1. Sub-Judge 3rd ,Class upto Rs. 2,000.

2. Sub-Judge 2nd Class upto Rs. 5,000.

3. Sub-Judge 1st Class upto Rs. 10,000.

4. District Judge, Unlimited.

It is very necessary that the jurisdiction of the officers is rendered uniform ana a common civil courts Act be made applicable to the entire State.

9. Before we proceed to deal with the judicial business transacted by the different classes of civil courts enumerated above, we shall give a brief account of the method of recruitment to the subordinate judiciary in this State.

10. Subordinate Judiciary: Organisation and recruitment.-

The subordinate judiciary is divided into two cadres-(1) the Punjab Civil Service (Judicial Branch); and (2) the Superior Judicial Service. The permanent strength of the cadre of the Judicial Branch of the Punjab Civil Service after the merger of PEPSU is 123 including two posts in the selection grade. Officers in this service are recruited as subordinate judges in the scale of Rs. 300-30-510-E.B.-30-600-40-720­E.B.-40-800-850. The scale of pay of the two posts in the selection grade is Rs. 900­50-1,200.

11. Rules for appointment to this service have been made by the Government of Punjab after consultation with the State Public Service Commission and the High Court. Recruitment is from two sources:-

(1) Law Graduates of not less than 23 and not more than 27 years of age who are not practising lawyers, and

(2) practising lawyers or law graduates serving under the Punjab Government or High Court of not less than 4 years standing in each case and who have not attained the age of 37 years on the date of appointment.

The age limit may be relaxed in favour of any candidate to the extent to which he was prevented from practising at the Bar in consequence of his being appointed a Subordinate Judge in a temporary capacity.

Candidates are required to enroll themselves on registers maintained by the District Judges of persons suitable for appointment as subordinate judges, and have to pass a competitive examination in which they are required to answer three papers in law one in English composition and one in one of the regional languages of the State. The names of the successful candidates are entered in a register and kept there for a period of two years during which they are required to pass the higher standard departmental examination.

Although it is theoretically possible for a successful candidate who has qualified in the departmental examinations to be rejected as being over-aged, we were told that such contingencies did not arise and that the number of candidates entered on the register was limited to those who could be absorbed.

The procedure relating to the maintenance of rolls by the district judge and a register of selected candidates by the High Courts appears to be somewhat complicated and can be simplified with advantage.

12. Training.-

The subjects included in the departmental examination are Civil, Criminal and Revenue law, accounts and languages (Hindi? Punjabi and Urdu). On completing the departmental examination the candidate has to undergo a period of training before he is appointed as a Sub-Judge. This period is generally of six months duration and besides training in judicial work under senior judicial officers, and with the Nazir and the Clerk of the Court, the candidate is also trained in revenue administration, such as, field work, mutation, registration etc. But this training and sometimes even the departmental examinations are dispensed with if there is a shortage of officers. This does not appear to be advisable particularly in the case of law graduates who have not been practising lawyers.

13. Honorary Sub-Judges.-

While section 28 of the Punjab Courts Act provides for the appointment of honorary subordinate judges, we understand that such appointments have not been made in recent times. We recommend the repeal of this provision as the work of untrained and legally unqualified subordinate judges working on a part-time basis is not likely to be satisfactory.

14. Superior Judicial Service.-

The Superior Judicial Service consists of twenty-one district and sessions judges including four additional district and sessions judges and two officers in the deputation reserve. The scale of pay of officers in this cadre is Rs. 800-50-1000-60-1300-50-1800 with one post of Rs. 3000 in the selection grade. The Registrar of the High Court may or may not be a District Judge. The rules for recruitment of these officers are said to be still under consideration of the Government.

15. Nature of litigation.-

It may be mentioned that about fifty per cent. of the total number of suits instituted in the State during any one year relate to immovable property. Disposal of suits relating to immovable property undoubtedly takes more time than that required for disposal of money suits. Nevertheless, as will be seen from the figures given in the accompanying Tables (Table Nos. 6 and 7), the courts have been not only able to keep pace with the institutions but also cleared off the past arrears.



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