The names of five advocates, including union law and justice minister Kapil Sibal’s cousin Deepak Sibal, have been recommended by the Punjab and Haryana high court collegium for elevation as high court judges, it is learnt.
Others include senior advocate Amit Rawal and advocates Jaishree Thakur, Raj Mohan Singh and BS Walia, as per information available. However, the development could not be confirmed from the high court authorities officially despite repeated attempts.
Where Rawal is a private legal practitioner, Sibal and Thakur are also on the panel of the Chandigarh administration as additional government pleaders on the civil side, Raj Mohan Singh is a member of the Bar Coucil of India as well as the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana. Walia is additional advocate general in the Punjab’s advocate general office.
The three-member high court collegium comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, justice Jasbir Singh and justice Satish Kumar Mittal last week cleared these names for sending them further to the Supreme Court for its approval, it is learnt.
This time, none of the recommended names include kith and kin of sitting or retired judges, unlike the practice being followed earlier and opposed tooth and nail by the high court bar association members. Before finalising the names, the chief justice had done consultation with high court bar association members, including senior advocates, for selecting the best talent with impeccable integrity.
As of now, the strength of high court judges is 45 against the sanctioned strength of 68. In the past decade, the maximum strength of judges in the high court was 48 (in 2009 and 2010).
The development assumes significance since two high court judges, Vijender Singh Malik and Nawab Singh, retired after attaining superannuation this month. Reeling under the load of pendency of cases, the strength of high court judges is also expected to fall further as four judges would retire in 2014. These are justices SP Bangarh and Ram Chand Gupta (retirement in February), Jasbir Singh (August) and Rakesh Kumar Garg (September).
Two judges to be administered oath today
Arun Palli and Harinder Singh Sidhu, who had got clearance from the Supreme Court collegium last month, would be administered oath as judges by the chief justice on Saturday. The oath ceremony would be held in the high court auditorium at 12.15 noon.
Palli is a designated senior advocate for the past seven years, while Sidhu is additional advocate general in Punjab. Palli is the son of justice PK Palli, who retired as a judge from the Himachal Pradesh high court. Sidhu, with his vast experience, had been representing the Punjab government in important cases.