HC hardens stand against shutdown

Slaps Rs 50,000 costs on Bar association

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 13

Hardening its stand against symbolic shutdown of the Punjab and Haryana High Court by its Bar association against Haryana’s move to set up an administrative tribunal for adjudicating service matters of state employees, a full Bench on Tuesday ruled that denying access to litigants amounted to interference in the administration of justice before summoning the top brass of the Chandigarh Administration and the police. “This court cannot sit as a mute spectator to all this,” the Bench ruled.

The Bench of Justice Manoj Bajaj also slapped costs of Rs 50,000 on the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association after ruling that the court could not ignore the conduct of lawyers, who had implemented their call for strike to paralyse working and violated the fundamental right of citizens, including litigants, by denying them access. “It is never expected that an advocate can be insensitive to the rights of litigants,” Justice Bajaj noted.

The Benches also dismissed cases “for non-prosecution” after the advocates failed to appear in the courts following a full court decision to decide matters regardless of the ongoing strike. The Bar association looked divided by the evening on the issue of continuing the strike and allowed access to litigants, while appearing to stick to its decision to go ahead with work suspension till Monday.

Amid the commotion, the government announced its decision to constitute a committee of Chief Secretary, Bar Council chairman, Bar association president and honorary secretary, Advocate-General’s nominee and employees’ representative to report on the tribunal’s legality, workability and validity.

In the morning, the full Bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari, Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain assembled following administrative directions of the Chief Justice to take stock after litigants desirous of appearing were forcibly denied entry.

The Bench asserted that it was brought to its notice that all gates, except gate number one where advocates and Bar members were squatting, had been locked and a counter set up for scanning urgency before permitting entry.

“This is totally unconstitutional and illegal. A right of the litigant to have access to the court where his matter is pending cannot be denied and the same amounts to interference in the due administration of justice. We are also informed that litigants who intend to file their petitions in person are being stopped forcibly,” the Bench said.

The Bench asked the UT Adviser, Home Secretary and Director-General of Police to appear in person on Wednesday for assistance of the court. Taking judicial notice of wrongfully restrained litigants, Justice Bajaj asserted that the advocates’ mode of expressing grievance could not be construed as unfettered and absolute.

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