Despite seven Supreme Court judges having retired since December 31, 2015, the central government is yet to receive any recommendation from the collegium to fill up these vacancies in the top court. This at a time when shortage of judges at all levels has prompted a war of words between the judiciary and the government. Meanwhile, the high court collegium too has not made any recommendation for appointment of judges for least one-fifth of available vacancies, while there are around 5,000 vacant posts in subordinate judiciary.
Amid all this, the Supreme Court Tuesday sought details of money allocated by the government for improving infrastructure of the judiciary.
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A bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur asked for details of money allocated under the 14th Finance Commission for the judiciary over the next five years, commencing April 1, 2015.
It also asked the Centre to give a break-up on how this was to be spent while specifying the mechanism to ensure the earmarked funds will be spent on the judiciary. The bench gave the government 10 days to place the pertinent documents.
According to sources in the government, a sum of Rs 5,400 crore has been allocated for subordinate judiciary between 1993-94 and 2014, when NDA came to power. “This government alone has allocated Rs 2,014 crore in the last two years,” added a senior official. There are 16,070 working court halls in the country while another 2,700 court halls are under construction.
At present, there are seven vacancies in the Supreme Court with the first chair falling vacant on December 31, 2015. While it has approved strength of 31 judges, the Supreme Court currently has 24. However, according to the sources in the government, they have not received a single recommendation so far from the Supreme Court collegium regarding these appointments.
A look at statistics on pendency in higher judiciary further demonstrates that there are 430 vacant posts of judges in 24 high courts across the country as against the total approved strength of 1,079 posts.
In high courts, 370 proposals for appointments had been received from the collegium between 2015 and 2016, but no recommendations were made regarding 279 vacant posts. Out of 370 proposals, 290 names were examined by the collegium in the Supreme Court, which rejected 99 names — around 34 per cent of total proposals initiated by high courts.
The SC collegium has recommended 191 names out of which 120 have been appointed in high courts. Appointment of 120 judges in one year, sources said, was the second highest since 1990 and depicted a correct picture when the average appointment in the last 25 years have been 80 judges per year. There are 42 names under consideration of the government whereas 43 others are under scrutiny of the SC collegium. Further, out of a working strength of 16,070, 4,937 vacancies exist in the subordinate courts.