While High Courts Work In Absence Of 384 Judges, Center Sitting On 97 Names Recommended By Collegium
The Collegium has recommended over 97 names to the central government, waiting to be approved even as the high courts are running short of nearly one-third of its judges. At present, there are working judges of 695 judges of the total approval strength of 1079 high courts. There is an acute shortage of 384 judges. According to a report by News18, an official data states 92 names are under the radar of government after those names were both recommended by the Supreme Court and high court collegium for their appointment as high court judges. Apart from these names, there are five other names which the SC collegium recommended, but was refused by the central government, asking for a reconsideration. The Law Ministry said that these names undergo various processing stages as mentioned in the Memorandum of Procedure. The government keeps a close eye during every process.
CJI gives assurance
In the month of November, Centre for Public Interest Litigation filed a PIL in the apex court asking the centre to notify the appointment of those candidates for judgeship whose names are reiterated by the collegium. Underscoring the crisis, the newly appointed Chief Justice of India Rajan Gogoi gave assurance by saying that he will solve the problem. The government is constrained by the recommendation of the collegium. However, there is no definite period within which the government needs to clear these names. This loophole has resulted in several instances where the government enjoyed sitting on the files after an attempt to defeat the collegium recommendation.
SC Judges’ press conferences also pointed out the issue
Earlier this year, four judges from the Supreme Court held an unprecedented press conference, where Justice Kurian Joseph had written to then Chief Justice Dipak Mishra raising concerns about the government sitting on the collegium’s recommendation. He asked the apex court to respond to the government. The finalisation of the new MoP remains under shadows, as both the parties have a different take. While the Supreme Court and the CJI have said that the MoP was almost final in the form of latest draft, the government is yet to notify on the ground that they wrote back to the court registrar last year about the reconsideration of the collegium’s take on its final draft.i
Issue raised multiple times in past
In 2016, expressing serious concern over the poor judge-population ratio in the country, the then chief justice of India had said that India needs more than 70,000 judges to clear the pending legal cases. Speaking at a programme organized by the Orissa high court, then Chief justice of India, TS Thakur expressed concern over the shortage of judges and the delay in appointments while stating that access to justice was a fundamental right and governments cannot afford to deny it to the people. He said the government should expedite the process of filling up vacancies to ensure speedy delivery of justice.