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24 High Courts have a total of 43% Judicial Vacancies


The justice delivery system is taking a beating as the Centre and the Supreme Court slug it out over norms for appointment of judges.

Andhra leads with 62% vacancy among the 10 high courts with most number of vacant judicial posts. The approved strength of the country’s 24 high courts stands at 1,079, of which 464 posts or 43% are vacant. According to the law ministry, 10 HCs account for 355 of the 464 vacant posts as of October 1. Allahabad HC leads with 83 vacant posts of judges, accounting for 52% of approved strength.

It is followed by Punjab & Haryana HC with 39 vacancies, or 46% of its sanctioned strength. The high court of judicature at Hyderabad, formerly the Andhra Pradesh HC, has 38 vacancies which is 62% of its sanctioned strength of 61, Karnataka HC has 36 posts vacant or 58% of its strength of 62 judges.

While a three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, on Friday blamed the situation on the “executive’s inaction or indifference” of sitting on recommendations by the collegium, the government insists there has been no abnormal increase in vacancies. Though the government argues that an increase in the approved strength of judges in the last two years has added to the backlog, tensions over finalising a memorandum of procedure (MoP) has affected judicial appointments.

Between June 2014, when the NDA government assumed office, and now, the combined approved strength of the 24 HCs increased from 906 to 1,079. The increase in sanctioned judicial posts by 173 judges has primarily been responsible for an overall vacancy of 43%. The government claimed the working strength of judges in HCs remained more or less at the 615-620 level during this period.

In 2014, the 24 HCs had 267 vacant positions against an approved strength of 906. The vacancies accounted for less than 30%. In contrast, as a percentage of the sanctioned strength, the vacancies have gone up to 43% as of October 1. The CJI had on Friday asked the attorney general to explain the delay in appointing judges, with some recommendations cleared by the SC collegium pending for nine months.
The delay, according to the attorney general, was due to the SC collegium not finalising the MoP for appointment of judges. The CJI rejected the argument, saying the government had communicated to the collegium that the pending MoP would not obstruct the appointmentof judges.
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