CHANDIGARH: The Haryana government will have to pay as much as Rs 64 lakh to two of country’s top legal eagles – Rohinton F Nariman and G E Vahanvati – for “conferences and just nine appearances” in the Supreme Court in a span of three weeks in an important case relating to defection of five Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) MLAs. The government, which has been billed up to a maximum of Rs 1.65 lakh for one appearance by the clerk of one of the top lawyers, has a battery of over 200 law officers, headed by an advocate
The Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana hired these top lawyers after it was faced with the prospect of being reduced to a minority in the assembly, following a Punjab and Haryana high court verdict in December last year, detaching the five MLAs from the assembly. The MLAs had joined Congress after defecting from HJC, led by Bhajan Lal’s son and Hisar MP Kuldeep Bishnoi. While Rohinton, son of eminent jurist Fali S Nariman, is the solicitor general of India, Vahanvati is the attorney general of India. The bill is likely to rise with other legal eagles, like former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium and senior advocates Rajiv Atma Ram and Mohan Jain, yet to send their details for appearing in the high court.
Information received through the RTI Act by TOI has revealed that the highest billed amount has touched Rs 7 lakh for a single appearance, while the highest amount to be paid to their clerks has touched Rs 1.65 lakh for one appearance along with the lawyers. The lawyers were hired to defend the Haryana Speaker.
Fee of SC advocate Rohinton F Nariman
February 22, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
February 23, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
February 28, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
February 29, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
March 13, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
March 14, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
March 15, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
March 18, 2012 | Rs 5.50 lakh
Service tax | Rs 4.53 lakh
Total | Rs 48.53 lakh
Fee of Nariman’s clerk Narayan Verma
February 23, 2012 | Rs 1.10 lakh
February 29, 2012 | Rs 1.10 lakh
March 15, 2012 | Rs 1.65 lakh
March 18, 2012 | Rs 55,000
Total | Rs 4.40 lakh
Fee of SC advocate G E Vahanvati
January 4, 2012 | Rs 10 lakh (for conference and appearance)
Total | 10 lakh
–– Fee for Vahanvati’s clerk
January 4, 2012 | Rs 1 lakh (for conference and appearance)
Gross total | Rs 64 lakh
A Hindu woman cannot be evicted out of the matrimonial home after divorce except through procedure established by law, as there is no provision for her automatic eviction, the Supreme Court has ruled. A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S D Mukhopadhyay, in a judgement, said that though a woman may not have a legal right to continue in the house of the ex-husband, yet the latter cannot forcibly evict her. The apex court gave the ruling while upholding an appeal filed by Ranjit Kaur challenging the decisions of the Punjab and Haryana high court which had upheld her eviction from the house of a disputed property upon a decree of divorce granted to the husband Major Harmohinder Singh, an Army officer. “Learned counsel is right in his submission that even though in the decree of divorce, the appellant has not been given a right of residence and her occupation of the suit property can be treated as unauthorised, respondent No 1 (Singh) cannot evict her except after following the procedure established by law. “The material placed on record shows that the appellant had entered into the property as the wife of respondent No. 1. Therefore, even though, after passing of the decree of the divorce she may not have a legal right to continue to remain in possession of the suit property, respondent No. 1 cannot be given liberty to forcibly evict her,” the bench said.
Describing this as his “personal view”, Justice Ganguly said the Constitutional guarantee of right to life cannot be subjected to “vague premises”. The doctrine of the crime falling in the’rarest of rare’ category in awarding the death penalty was a “grey” area as its interpretation depended on individual judges, he said, adding the “sentencing structures” should be in consonance with the goals set by the Constitution. The remarks were made by Justice Ganguly yesterday at a two-day seminar on ‘Abolition of Death Penalty in India‘. The seminar was organized by the Jindal Global Law School at Sonepat in Haryana. The sitting judge of the apex court said sending a convict to the gallows, is legal but “barbaric, anti-life, undemocratic and irresponsible”.. The guilt of an accused should be proved beyond “lingering” doubt in cases warranting the award of capital punishment, which has so far not yet been evolved.
He cautioned that before giving death penalty, a judge must be “extremely careful” and weigh “mitigating and aggravating circumstances”. The Judge said the state must adduce evidence that the accused cannot be reformed.
THERE is an urgent need to rejuvenate the subordinate courts in Punjab and Haryana by upgrading their infrastructure and equipping them with tools of information and communication technology .
Though computers have been installed in the courts and laptops provided to judicial officers, this has not made them “fully computerised” courts. Consequently, they are way behind the newly evolved model of ‘E-Court’ like the one inaugurated in New Delhi early this year.
Barring Chandigarh, no district court in Punjab and Haryana has got its own website. The website enables the litigants and advocates, especially those residing far away, to get information of the cause list of to-be-listed cases as well as final orders or judgments. Though the Punjab and Haryana High Court website has such facility, the daily orders passed by the Judges in various cases are not uploaded as in the Supreme Court of India. This practice can be replicated even in lower courts even if it entails amendment in the relevant rules and orders.
Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice Mukul Mudgal would do well to ensure a time-bound roadmap for refurbishing the image of subordinate courts. As he has spent a large chunk of his legal and judicial career in the Delhi High Court, he should endeavour to replicate the same model in Punjab and Haryana.
The foremost requirement for the smooth functioning of any court is an independent and spacious judicial complex with easy accessibility for litigants. Under the Bhupinder Singh Hooda dispensation in Haryana, almost all district courts have got new judicial complexes. Courts in all sub-divisions, too, deserve the same attention.
Next is state-of-the-art and foolproof security in courts’ premises as many unfortunate incidents have happened in recent times. Miscreants also attack undertrials and witnesses. Judicial complexes ought to be converted into high security zones with adequate deployment of security personnel in uniform and plainclothes.
As for the dearth of judges, there has been no system of recruitment of judicial officers in both states every year. This has resulted in too many vacancies. The sanctioned strength of subordinate judges in the two states is just 400. Till March 2010, the shortfall of judges in Haryana and Punjab is 123 and 116 respectively. Though a recruitment drive for civil judges is underway, it is not clear to what extent it would address the shortfall.
Regarding the case pendency, the figure works out to be 5.61 lakh for Haryana and 5.74 lakh for Punjab. Considering the same, more posts of subordinate judges need to be created. Even the NCT of Delhi has in recent years increased the same strength to more than 600. There should be a periodic recruitment of judges preferably by the High Court. The process of judges’ selection by the respective Public Service Commissions has failed miserably as the state governments delay the nod to such recruitment when these commissions comprise members appointed by the previous regimes. The PCS Judicial Branch Rules (also applicable to Haryana) need to be suitably amended to delegate the whole process of recruitment to the High Court. Equally important is the need to reframe the subordinate courts’ working methodology along with suitable impart of training to court officials and supporting staff in conformity with the contemporary needs and requirements.
The prevalent colonial style of functioning of lower courts needs to be substituted by a citizen- and litigant-friendly manual to check corruption by the court staff and save precious money and time of people. It’s time for e-payment of court fee, issuance of summons and notices by email and delivery of certified copies of judgments via the digital mode. We have a miniscule number of family courts. Why not set up at least one in every district for appropriate adjudication of marital and family-related disputes with the aid and advice of psychiatrists and counselors?
In April, a Gram Nyayalya was inaugurated with much fanfare in Shahbad (Haryana) followed by another at Sirsa. However, under the Gram Nyayalayas’ Act, 2008, every state is duty-bound to establish at least one village court in every block. When the Centre is to meet the non-recurring expenditure, why is the state reluctant? As the Supreme Court has initiated periodic monitoring of the progress of providing adequate infrastructure in subordinate courts by different states, Punjab and Haryana governments should kick-start the overdue overhaul of the subordinate judiciary.
The writer is Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court