The acting chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday set up a committee of judges to look into the demand of the establishment of a separate bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court in southern or western Haryana.
The committee includes two judges from Haryana, justice SK Mittal and justice Hemant Gupta, and two from Punjab, justice SS Saron and justice Rajive Bhalla. The committee is headed by justice Mittal, who is at present the second seniormost judge in the high court.
The move comes in the wake of Union law minister DV Sadananda Gowda forwarding a communication from Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to the acting chief justice of the high court to examine the matter.
The chief minister had on April 17 written to the Union law minister, seeking the setting up of a separate HC bench in southern or western Haryana. The setting up of a separate HC bench is an easier option than the creation of a separate high court for Haryana, also a long-standing demand of the state government. While the Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966, provides for the establishment of a separate HC bench, the Act would need an amendment by Parliament for the creation of a separate HC.
In May, the Union law minister wrote back to the CM, stating that the state's demand for the establishment of a separate HC bench in southern/western Haryana had been forwarded to the HC acting chief justice. "Benches of the high court are established after due consideration of a complete proposal from the state government which should also have the consent of the chief justice of the high court concerned," wrote Gowda.
In his communication, Khattar stated that due to long distances, poor litigants from far-off areas found it difficult to pursue litigation at the high court in Chandigarh. The chief minister also quoted examples of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, where separate HC benches have been set up away from the principal bench and were functioning effectively.
A separate high court bench was also a poll promise of the BJP and finds mention in its assembly poll manifesto.
When contacted, Haryana advocate general BR Mahajan said the reading of the order conveyed that the demand had virtually been accepted by the high court and the committee had to decide the modalities. "It is a big achievement of the state government. The chief minister's efforts have borne fruit. Successive governments tried to establish a separate bench but failed," Mahajan added.
Road to separate bench
The enabling provision for setting up a separate HC bench is provided in the Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966. Section 36 (2) of the Act says: "The President may, after consultation with the chief justice of the common high court and governors of Punjab and Haryana, by notified order, provide for establishment of a permanent bench or benches of that high court at one or more places within the territories to which the jurisdiction of the HC extends, other than the principal seat of the high court and for any matters connected therewith."