165 judges appointed to high courts in the outgoing year; disposal of cases is in domain of the judiciary: Union Government

AMIDST the growing tussle between the executive and the judiciary over the appointments of judges, the government has shared the information to the effect that a total of 165 judges were appointed in the high courts across the country which, it claims, is the highest number of appointments made in a calendar year.

The Department of Justice, which is an administrative department dealing with the appointment of judges, has shared the information as follows high court wise:

High Court of Allahabad (13), Andhra Pradesh (14), Bombay (19), Calcutta (16), Chhattisgarh (3), Delhi (17), Gauhati (2), Himachal Pradesh (2), Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh (4), Jharkhand (1), Karnataka (6), Kerala (1), Madhya Pradesh (6), Madras (4), Orissa (6), Patna (11), Punjab and Haryana (21), Rajasthan (2), Telangana (17).

The number in the bracket indicates the number of judges appointed in the high court concerned.

The government added that a total of 38 Additional Judges were made permanent in high courts – the High Courts of Allahabad (10), Bombay (4), Calcutta (6), Himachal Pradesh (1), Karnataka (3), Kerala (4), Madras (9), Manipur (1). Besides, the tenure of 2 additional judges was extended – the High Court of Bombay (1) and Madras (1).

The information shared by the department also revealed that a total of eight Chief Justices were appointed in the outgoing year. The High Courts of Gauhati (1), Himachal Pradesh (1), Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh (1) Karnataka (1), Madras (1), Telangana (1), Rajasthan (1), Uttarakhand (1). In addition, two CJs were transferred from one high court to another, and six judges were transferred from one high court to another.

On the pendency of cases, the department states that the disposal of cases is within the domain of the judiciary. It, however, adds that the government is committed to speedy disposal of cases and reduction in pendency of cases to improve access to justice in line with the mandate under Article 39A of the Constitution, it says.

As on December 6, there are 69,598 cases pending in the Supreme Court. The pendency in respect of High Courts and District & Subordinate Courts stands at 59,57,704 and 4,28,21,378 respectively.

It also added that the live streaming of court proceedings has started in Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Patna and Madhya Pradesh High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, thus allowing interested persons to join the proceedings.

Besides, 21 virtual courts in 17 States / UTs have been set up to try traffic offences.

“These courts have heard more than 2.21 crore cases and realized Rs. 325 crore in fines. Delhi High Court has started 34 Digital Courts to hear cheque bounce cases under the Section 138 of NI Act“, the government said.

On December 22, while responding in Parliament, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said as many as 154 proposals regarding the appointment of judges, received from various high courts were at stages of processing between the Union Government and the Supreme Court Collegium, adding that it has been receiving representations from diverse sources on lack of transparency, objectivity and social diversity in the collegium system of appointment of judges to the Constitutional Courts.

As on December 16, against the sanctioned strength of 34 judges, 28 judges are working at the Supreme Court, leaving six vacancies to be filled. On December 13, the Supreme Court Collegium recommended the names of five high court judges for elevation to the Supreme Court. The government is yet to clear these appointments.

Against the sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges, 775 judges are working in the high courts, leaving 333 vacancies to be filled. Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju further informed the Parliament that recommendations from High Court Collegiums are yet to be received in respect of 179 vacancies at various high courts.