Regrettable that govt, judiciary not adhering to timelines in filling up HC vacancies: Par panel
New Delhi: Amid a standoff between the government and the Supreme Court Collegium over the appointment of judges, a parliamentary panel has asked the Executive and the Judiciary to come up with “out of box thinking” to deal with the “perennial problem” of vacancies in high courts.
The department-related standing committee on Law and Personnel in its report tabled in Parliament on Thursday said it is not in agreement with the comments of the Department of Justice in the Union Law Ministry that “time for filling up vacancies of judges in the higher judiciary cannot be indicated”.
The timeline has been drawn in the Second Judges Case and also in the Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) regarding the appointment of judges, it pointed out.
“But regrettably, those timelines are not adhered to by both the Judiciary and the Executive, which is leading to delay in filling up of the vacancies,” it lamented.
It said as per the data provided by the government, as on December 31, 2021, there were three high courts of Telangana, Patna and Delhi where vacancies were more than 50 per cent and 10 HCs where vacancies are more than 40 per cent of their respective sanctioned strength.
“These all are large states, where judge to population ratio is already skewed and level of vacancies is a matter of deep concern,” the panel headed by senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi observed.
The government and the Judiciary, the committee noted, “should come up with some out of box thinking to deal with this perennial problem of vacancies in the HCs”.
The committee also said that it is “surprised” to note that the Supreme Court and the government have failed to reach at a consensus on revision of the Memorandum of (MOP) for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts, though the same is under consideration of both for “about seven years now”.
The committee expects the government and the Judiciary to finalise the revised, which is more efficient and transparent.
There are 25 high courts in the country. As on December 5, 778 judges are working in the high courts against the sanctioned strength of 1,108.
On November 25, the government had asked the Supreme Court Collegium to reconsider 20 files related to appointment of high court judges.
The government had expressed “strong reservations” about the recommended names.
Out of the 20 cases, 11 were fresh cases and nine were reiterations made by the top court collegium.
The government has returned all the names related to fresh appointments in various high courts on which it had “differences” with the Supreme Court Collegium, sources had said.