Published On: Fri, Oct 28th, 2016

No abnormal increase in judges’ vacancies, says govt

New Delhi: Facing attack, the government tonight said it is making all out efforts to see that vacant posts of judges are filled up even as it insisted that there has been no abnormal increase in the vacancies in the High Courts under NDA rule as compared to the previous UPA regime.

Chief Justice of India T S Thakur.

Chief Justice of India T S Thakur.

The average annual rate of appointment of judges in the High Courts has not declined during the last 2 years, though no new appointments were made during April-December, 2015 due to hearing of the NJAC matter, sources said.

“Government of India has utmost respect for the judiciary and its independence,” a source said, against the backdrop of strong statement by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur over the vacancies not being filled up.

The sources said the government is concerned about the increasing pendency in the judicial courts and “Hence, Government has been making all out efforts to see that the vacant posts are filled up.”

The sources said that it is being presented in the media that the number of vacancies of judges in the High Court has increased abnormally in recent times. “However, an analysis of data for the last 10 years indicates that there is no such abnormal increase,” the source said.

Giving details, the sources said that during the last 10 years, the number of vacancies has varied from 265 to 280. Similarly, working strength of judges in the High Courts has remained almost the same, around 600.

The current working strength in High Courts is 620, they said against the backdrop of attack by the Chief Justice and opposition parties, including Congress.

“Further, 173 new posts of judges were created in last 2 years. This has added to the vacancies in the High Courts,” the source said.

During the period 2009-2014, only 20 new posts of High Courts judges had been created whereas during 2015 and 2016, 173 new posts were created.

“If we exclude that period, the average annual rate of appointment of High Courts Judges has increased by 63 per cent (from 74 to 121 per year),” the source added.

With regard to the Collegium system, the government sources said the current process has “certain shortcomings”.

“We have come across some instances where the High Court Collegium has recommended certain number of candidates for appointment as High Court Judges, the Supreme Court Collegium has undertaken consultations, exercised due diligence and has excluded certain recommendees. By the time the final proposal is made, the number is reduced drastically,” the source said.

Giving an example, the sources cited the case of Allahabad High Court wherein the High Court Collegium had recommended 19 names but finally the Supreme Court Collegium recommended only 8 names.

“In another instance of Karnataka High Court, the High Court Collegium had recommended 10 names against 10 vacancies, but only two names were recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium,” the sources said.

In another proposal relating to Rajasthan High Court, High Court Collegium has recommended 10 names, but the Supreme Court Collegium finally recommended only 4 names, they said.

In order to assist the SC Collegium and HC Collegium, a Committee has been proposed. This Committee is intended to assess and evaluate candidates for the consideration of the Collegium.

The Collegium will, however, not be bound by the Committee recommendations, the sources said.

“There have been similar arrangements in selections to many senior positions in government,” they said, citing the example of the Selection Committee for selection of Chief Information Commissioner and other Information Commissioners headed by the Prime Minister.

However, a Search Committee headed-by Cabinet Secretary will evaluate and suggest a panel of names to the Selection Committee, which can consider other names as well.

The Search Committee’s remit is only to facilitate the Selection Committee.

PTI

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