43% HC judges posts remain vacant

Around 43% of 1,079 High Court judges posts remain vacant at present but the government seeks to put the blame for the delay in filling-up vacancies majorly at the doors of higher judiciary.

According to official statistics as on November 1, there are 461 vacancies in 24 High Courts with Hyderabad and Karnataka having the highest proportion of vacancies.

While the vacancies in Hyderabad High Court has a vacancy of 60.8% (38 vacancies against 61 posts), Karnataka has 59% (37 against 62) vacant posts of judges in its High Court.

If one goes by the numbers, the Allahabad High Court has the highest number of vacancies — there are just 77 judges while the sanctioned strength is 160, leaving 83 vacancies. Allahabad High Court has around 51% vacancies while the High Courts in Chhattisgarh (50%) and Assam (45.8%) also have higher proportion of vacancies.

The Department of Justice under Ministry of Law, however, appears not willing to take the blame for the delay in filling up vacant posts.

In its deposition before Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in October, the department pointed “major reasons” for the delay in filling up vacancies.

“Major reasons for delay in filling-up of the vacancies are due to rejection of candidates recommended by High Court Collegium ranging between 30 to 80 percent by Supreme Court Collegium for various reasons, adverse Intelligence reports, creation of 173 additional posts and halting of fresh selection between April 13 to December 16, 2015 due to National Judicial Appointment Commission case in the Supreme Court,” it told the Parliamentary panel.

In many cases, it said the High Court collegium recommends names to Supreme Court after two years of occurrence of such vacancies, which is in contravention to the Memorandum of Procedure for the process of appointment.

The panel, on its part, expressed its “deep anguish” that recruitment process for the vacancies occurring as early as in 2007 was not initiated by certain High Courts as late 2016.

“The Committee understands that several High Courts wait initiation of the proposal till a bunch of vacancies becomes available. This practice is not desirable and leads to delay in filling up the vacancies apart from being violative to the timeliness laid in the Second Judges’ Case and existing Memorandum of Procedure and needs to be discontinued forthwith,” the panel said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 12, 2016)

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