At least 16 (34%) of the 47 judges in the Punjab and Haryana high court have kith and kin practising law at the same place. Either these relatives have private practice or the Punjab and Haryana governments have accommodated them in respective advocate general offices. Now the statement by 41st Chief Justice of India (CJI) Rajindra Mal Lodha, who took over on April 27, has triggered a debate about “uncle judges”.
The CJI has said there is nothing the judges can do about it, and it is for the bar council to take pro-active action. The Bar Council of India as well as the bar councils of states such as Rajasthan and Bihar had passed resolutions to shift uncle judges to high courts outside.
Bar Council of India chairman Biri Singh Sinsinwar, when contacted, said: “The new CJI has not been briefed properly about all the facts. The council cannot be blamed, since it has passed a resolution already that when the advocates whose kin are practicing in the same high court are elevated as judges, they should be transferred to other high courts immediately. It is the Supreme Court and the Centre that are not implementing the resolution.”
Bar Council of Punjab and Haryan a chairman Rakesh Gupta said the body could act only on complaints, which it had not received, so far. Asked if any resolution of the kind the other bar councils had passed was coming up, he replied: “I can’t comment as a chairman.”
On the issue of “uncle judges”, the Law Commission of India in its 230th report submitted to the union law ministry in August 2009 had mentioned that judges should not be appointed in the high courts where their kith and kin practised.
In May 2010, the-then chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high cour t, Mukul Mudgal, had forwarded a list of 16 “uncle judges” to the union ministry of law and justice.
The names included justices Adarsh Kumar Goel (now chief justice of the Orissa high court); MM Kumar (chief justice of the Jammu and Kashmir high court) ; Ashutosh Mohunt a (Andhra Pradesh high court); SK Mittal; Hemant Gupta; TPS Mann; Mahesh Grover; KC Puri; KS Ahluwalia; Sabina; MS Sullar; and now retired SD Anand, VK Sharma, Jora Singh, Gurdev Singh and Harbans Lal.