A total of 454 posts of high court judges are lying vacant in all 25 high courts across the country against the sanctioned strength of 1098 judges.
The Supreme Court alone has eight vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 34 judges. No appointment has been made to the top court since 2020. Two more vacancies are scheduled to arise after the retirement of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Naveen Sinha next month.
Curently the Supreme Court has only one woman judge.
The country’s largest high court at Allahabad is working with 94 judges against the sanctioned strength of 160 judges. Of the 94 judges, seven are female judges.
The Bombay High Court which has a sanctioned strength of 94 judges is working at a strength of 63 judges, leaving 31 clear vacancies. Of the 63 judges, eight are female judges.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court which has sanctioned a strength of 85 judges is working with 46 judges. Of them, seven are female judges.
The Madras High Court has 17 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 75 judges. Of the 58 working judges, 13 are female judges.
The Calcutta High Court has 41 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 72 judges. It presently has 31 judges, of which four are female.
The Delhi High Court has 30 posts vacant against a sanctioned strength of 60 judges. It has only six women judges.
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju shared this information in the Lok Sabha in response to questions for members of Parliament.
The Minister added that of the 567 working judges in the high courts, only 77 were female judges. The High Courts of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura and Uttarakhand had no female judge while the High Courts of Gauhati, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Ladakh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan and Sikkim had only one female judge.
Minister Rijiju said since the Constitution did not provide for reservation for any caste or class of persons in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, no class/category-wise data had been maintained centrally. He, however, clarified that the government had been requesting the Chief Justices of High Courts that while sending proposals for the appointment of judges, that due consideration be given to suitable candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Women to ensure social diversity in the appointment of judges in high courts.
He also said filling up of vacancies in the high courts is a “continuous, integrated and collaborative process between the Executive and the Judiciary. It requires consultation and approval from various Constitutional Authorities both at the State and Centre level”.
“Every effort is made to expedite the process of appointment of judges following the due procedure”, he said.
In April this year, the Supreme Court expressed concern about the vacancies in the high court, describing it as a “crisis”
“There are almost 40% vacancies in the high courts, with many of the larger high courts working under 50% of their sanctioned strength”, it said, while laying down timelines to be followed to facilitate the timely appointment of the judges to the higher judiciary.
It had directed the Centre to notify appointments within three to four weeks after the Collegium reiterates its recommendations.