With the appointment of 213 Judges pending with the Government, the High Courts grow thinner resulting in a logjam of cases. Comment.

Published: December 13, 2019

According to data,  38% of all sanctioned posts of High Court judges are lying vacant as of December 1, 2019. High Courts of States like Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have been functioning below half their actual capacity.

The Supreme Court recently has recommended 213 names for appointment to various High Courts which have been pending with the government. Court has fixed a six month time period to appoint judges whose names the SC collegium, the HCs and the Government have agreed upon.

Appointment procedure – 

There are time periods which have been specified prior to the name reaching the PM. It is the case at every level of appointment process of judges to the higher judiciary. The Memorandum of Procedure states that appointments need to be initiated at least 6 months before a vacancy arises. Also, time of 6 weeks is specified for the State which is required to send the recommendation to the Union Law Minister. Following this, the brief is sent to the SC collegium and once collegium clears the names, the Law ministry needs to put the recommendation to the Prime Minister within 3 weeks. The PM in turn will advise the President and thereafter no time limit is prescribed and the process comes to a standstill.

Significance – 

The Supreme Court struck down the government’s move to set up a National Judicial Appointments Commission  (NJAC) citing it as unconstitutional in 2015. The NJAC was to be responsible for appointments and transfers to the higher judiciary in place of the Supreme Court collegium. After the removal of such provision, the delays in appointments have become increasingly common.

SC has recently condemned the government for not acting on a set of nominations made earlier. As per the court, if a collegium reiterates the names, the government has no option but to appoint the judges. As a result, the equation between the court and Union Government has been strained. Vacancies in the higher judiciary will result in delay of justice and affect every aspect of the justice delivery system.

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