New Delhi: More than 4,000 judges’ posts are vacant in trial courts across the country, while over 38 per cent of the sanctioned posts for permanent and additional judges in India’s 25 high courts also lie empty, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice has revealed.
According to data placed before Parliament Wednesday, high courts have a sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges, but 419 of these posts remain vacant.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed this data in response to a question posed by Congress Lok Sabha MP Jyotsna Charandas Mahant from Chhattisgarh, who wanted to know whether the government has made any assessment regarding the shortage of judges and vacant posts. She also sought to know whether the process of recruitment has started for the vacant posts in the last three years.
The law minister noted that in 2020, only 66 new judges were appointed to 15 high courts. This is much lower than the 81 appointments made in 2019 and 108 in 2018.
The Allahabad High Court, which is the largest high court in the country, continues to have the highest number of vacancies — 64 against a sanctioned strength of 160.
In the Delhi High Court, there are 31 judges against a sanctioned strength of 60, while the Calcutta High Court has only 32 judges on 72 posts.
The Bombay High Court, meanwhile, has 63 judges on 94 sanctioned posts.
Trial courts data
The law ministry data also noted that out of 24,247 posts in trial courts in various states, 4,928 are lying vacant.
Uttar Pradesh topped this list with 1,053 vacant posts out of 3,634, followed by Bihar, where the working strength is 1,433 out of 1,936.
In his parliamentary response, minister Prasad clarified that the central government had no role in the recruitment for the subordinate judiciary.
He noted that under Article 235 of the Constitution, the administrative control over members of district and subordinate judiciary in the states is vested with the respective high courts. Therefore, he said, the high courts do the recruitment for trial court judges in consultation with either the state government or the state public service commission.
The minister, however, added that recruitment in subordinate courts is an “ongoing and continuous process”, and a timeline fixed by the Supreme Court is followed.
HC judge appointments
Appointments to high courts have always been dogged by controversies.
Under the existing memorandum of procedure, a high court collegium sends its recommendations to the Supreme Court collegium, which is led by the Chief Justice of India.
However, the SC collegium can make an appointment only after it receives Intelligence Bureau inputs from the central government.
ThePrint had earlier reported that the Narendra Modi government took between 7 to 12 months to process and forward to the Supreme Court the names for high court judge appointments in four states.
While the collegium had cleared the names within 45 days of receiving them from the law ministry, the government is yet to notify some names.
(Edited by Rachel John)