With the transfer of two senior judges, the number of judges in the Punjab and Haryana high court has come down to 48.
The transfers of justice Satish Kumar Mittal and justice Hemant Gupta were cleared by the Supreme Court collegium recently, it is learnt.
Justice Mittal is set to take over as the chief justice of the Rajasthan high court while justice Gupta will join the Patna high court.
The number of sanctioned posts of judges in the HC is 85. While Satish Kumar Mittal was the senior-most judge after the acting chief justice, SJ Vazifdar, justice Hemant Gupta was the second senior-most..
As a result of these transfers, justice Mahesh Grover and justice Rajesh Bindal are likely to be placed in division benches. There are nine functional division benches at the high court and both justice Mittal and justice Gupta were presiding over these.
Mittal’s retirement is scheduled in April 2016 and his elevation was long due and got delayed due to a tussle between central government and the Supreme Court over the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
Justice Gupta’s transfer has come at a time when a public interest litigation (PIL) is pending before the high court in which court monitored Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe has been sought into a money laundering scandal in which a family member of justice Gupta and assistant advocate general Chetan Mittal are facing allegations. The petitioners, two Punjab residents, have recently filed an application in PIL seeking its withdrawal and accused a high court division bench of “delaying” adjudication of the matter.
The matter was being heard by the division bench of justice SS Saron and justice Sneh Prashar. The bench had recused from hearing the matter on December 23. The matter is yet to be listed for hearing before another bench after that.
Earlier, two division benches have also recused from hearing the PIL. First to recuse was the bench of justice SK Mittal and justice MS Chauhan on August 21 on the first date of hearing and later the bench of justice SS Saron and justice Rekha Mittal on September 15 (justice Rekha Mittal opted for recusal).