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Over 40% vacancies in judges’ posts in 11 HCs, Patna tops list

IN ELEVEN of the 25 high courts across the country, at least 40 per cent of the sanctioned strength of judges are lying vacant.

With just 20 judges against a sanctioned strength of 53, the Patna High Court tops the list with 62 per cent vacancies as of June 1, according to the Ministry of Law and Justice data.

The Calcutta High Court is second with over 56 per cent vacancies – it has 31 judges against a sanctioned strength of 72. Both the Madhya Pradesh (24 judges against a sanctioned strength of 53) and Rajasthan High Courts (23 judges against a sanctioned strength of 50) have 54 per cent vacancies.

In Andhra Pradesh, there are 19 judges against a sanctioned strength of 37 (over 48 per cent vacancies) while Delhi has 31 judges against a sanctioned strength of 60 (over 48 per cent vacancies).

Among the other High Courts which have reported over 40 per cent vacancies are: Gujarat, Orissa and Punjab and Haryana (all 44 per cent), Telangana (41 per cent), and Jharkhand (40 per cent).

Overall, of the sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges in the 25 High Courts, 430 posts are yet to be filled.

Only three High Courts — Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim, which have a sanctioned strength of 5, 4 and 3 judges respectively — are functioning at full strength.

While the Supreme Court has seven vacancies at present, Justice Rohinton Nariman is set to retire on August 12.

After Chief Justice of India N V Ramana took office on April 24, only seven recommendations have been made for appointment as High Court Judges — all involving judicial officers.

On May 4, the collegium recommended elevation of a judicial officer as judge of the Gauhati High Court and six judicial officers as judges of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The government has made only one appointment in the last month – advocate Vikas Bahl was appointed additional judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on May 21.

For appointment of High Court Judges, the three-member Collegium comprises CJI Ramana, Justices Rohinton Nariman and U U Lalit. Besides these three, the five-member Collegium for appointment of Supreme Court Judges includes Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

During the tenure of former Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, the Collegium faced a deadlock over appointments and failed to make a single recommendation for appointment to the Supreme Court.

That was expected to change when a new Collegium was formed in April.

With the pandemic restricting access to courts, cases piled up at record levels last year. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, a government platform monitoring judicial data, the backlog of cases in the 25 High Courts quadrupled in 2019-2020 at 20.4 per cent, compared to 5.29 per cent in 2018-2019.

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