419 vacancies despite government nod for 44 judges

NEW DELHI: With the Centre clearing the names of 44 High Court judges, the judiciary, which is reeling under the burden of over three crore cases, has reason to cheer, though vacancies could still be a cause for concern with 419 positions empty from the 1,079 approved strength.

The Centre’s move came nearly two months after the Supreme Court Collegium reiterated the names of all judges it sent to the Centre in November last year. The new names were recommended by the Collegium this April. The rift between the government and the Supreme Court on the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) is persisting due to various differences. With the new MoP yet to be finalised, the government is bound by the Collegium’s recommendations.

In the list of 44 names, Allahabad High Court has 29 judges, Karnataka High Court two, Calcutta High Court seven and the Madras High Court six.

In November, the government had returned as many as 43 names to the Collegium for reconsideration and sought certain clarifications. The maximum names of judges rejected were from the Allahabad High Court followed by names from the Karnataka High Court wherein some complaints were made against judges whose names were considered for elevation.

Last week, the Centre had appointed 14 judges to the Bombay High Court and three judges to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The 24 High Courts across the country still have 40.54 lakh cases pending with maximum pendency of more than 9 lakh cases in the Allahabad High Court which has a vacancy of 76 judges.

The number of vacancies in High Courts has already crossed more than 45 per cent. Three of the 31 posts in the apex court too are vacant. Chief Justice of India J S Khehar while hearing a PIL on judges appointments expressed satisfaction with the filing of judicial vacancies and said, “Progress has been made and the number of posts of judges in high courts would be increased by 25 per cent.”

On January 2, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre on why judges and chief justices of high courts are not being transferred despite the recommendations of the Collegium.and asked it to file a status report on such pending transfers with detailed reasons.