THE The Union government informed parliament on Thursday that there were 387 vacancies for high court judges out of the total sanctioned complement of 1,104 judges. Currently, a total of 717 judges are in office. He added that out of 387 vacancies, 168 proposals are in various stages of processing between the government and the Supreme Court College. In addition, Parliament was informed that recommendations from the Collegiums of the High Courts had not yet been received regarding 219 vacancies in the High Courts.
The information was shared by Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju in response to a parliamentary question raised by the BJP MP.[MP] to Rajya Sabha TG Venkatesh.
The Minister also informed Parliament that the judges of the various High Courts are appointed according to the procedure laid down in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) prepared in 1998 pursuant to the judgment of the Supreme Court of October 6, 1993. (Second Judges Case) read with their advisory opinion of October 28, 1998 (Third Judges Case).
“In accordance with the MoP, the initiation of the proposal for the appointment of judges to the High Courts rests with the Chief Justice of the relevant High Court. The Chief Justice of the High Court is required to initiate the proposal to fill the vacancy of a High Court judge six months before the vacancy arises.While the filling of vacancies in the High Courts is an ongoing, integrated and collaborative process requiring consultation and approval from various constitutional authorities, vacancies continue to arise due to the retirement, resignation or elevation of judges. The government is committed to filling vacancies promptly and within specific timeframes,” said Rijiju in the upper chamber.
In response to questions posed by BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena, the Minister informed that from May 1, 2014 to March 17, 2022, a total of 44 Justices have been appointed to the Supreme Court. 710 new judges have been appointed and 588 additional judges have been appointed permanent in the High Courts. The sanctioned number of High Court judges has increased from 906 in May 2014 to 1,104 currently, the Minister added.
Regarding the sanctioned and operational strength of District and Subordinate Court Judges, the Minister said that it had increased since 2013. He said that as of December 31, 2013, the sanctioned strength of District Court Judges district and subordinates was 19,518 15, 115 worked against the posts of sanctions. On April 4, 2022, the sanctioned workforce is 24,521, and while only 19,341 are working.
Rijiju said filling vacancies in the subordinate judiciary is the domain of the state governments and relevant high courts.
On April 1, the minister, while responding to questions about women’s representation in high courts, said that the responsibility to ensure social diversity and representation of all sections of society, including scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women and Minorities, is primarily the responsibility of the Judiciary.
“The government cannot appoint a person as a High Court judge who is not recommended by the College of the High Court/College of the Supreme Court,” the minister said. He added, however, that his government remained committed to social diversity in the appointment of judges of the higher judiciary and had asked the presidents of the high courts that, when sending proposals for the appointment of judges, particular attention be granted to suitable candidates belonging to Castes, Scheduled Tribes, other disadvantaged classes, minorities and women to ensure social diversity in the appointment of judges in high courts.
He also disclosed that from January 1, 2021 to March 3, 2022, the Supreme Court Collegium recommended 39 women for appointment as High Court Judges, out of which 27 women were nominated and the remaining 12 cases are at various stages of processing.