High Courts face judge crunch with 384 vacancies

NEW DELHI: Most of the 24 high courts of the country are facing an acute shortage of judges with as many as 384 vacancieswaiting to be filled up at a time when there is no system to appoint or elevate judges to the higher judiciary.

According to the latest data compiled by the Law Ministry, as on August one, the high courts were facing a shortage of 384 judges as against the approved strength of 1017. Thus, the 24 high courts are functioning with a working strength of 633 judges.

As on May one, there was a shortage of 366 judges in the high courts. The high courts then were functioning with a working strength of 651.

While the collegium system — where judges recommended names of judges for appointment and elevation — has been done away with by the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, the new body is yet to take shape.

The new law which scrapped the collegium system came into force on April 13 this year.

The Supreme Court has reserved its judgement on a clutch of petitions challenging the validity of NJAC. The Chief Justice of India has refused to take part in a meeting with the Prime Minister in the selection committee of the panel under the new law, thus leaving the new system in a limbo.

Therefore, no judge can be elevated as chief justice of a high court, transferred to another high court or elevated to the Supreme Court as there is no system in place for the purpose.

According to the data, the high courts of Gauhati (rpt) Gauhati, Gujarat, Karnataka, Patna and Punjab and Haryana are at present headed by acting chief justices.

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