As of November 25, there are 331 vacancies in 24 high courts and the collegiums of these HCs have so far initiated recommendations against only 148 vacancies. For the remaining 183 posts of judges, which are lying vacant for one to five years, they have made no recommendations, official sources said.
The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) that guides appointment of judges to the apex court and high courts provides for the collegium of respective HCs to initiate recommendations six months before a vacancy arises.
The sources said that currently no recommendations that are older than four months from the time they were received from the respective HC collegium is pending with the government, in line with the timeline set by the judiciary. It takes more than four months for the government to carry out background checks and an Intelligence Bureau verification on each of the recommendations.
The current MoP has laid down a detailed procedure for appointment of judges of HCs where the chief justice of the HC initiates the proposal against each vacancy six months prior to its occurrence.
This is, however, not the first time the higher judiciary and the executive have been in a tussle over delay in appointment of judges. When this matter was raised by Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi in Parliament in February this year, law minister Kiren Rijiju had shared data with the House, which showed HC collegiums had not made recommendations for more than 58% of the vacancies which existed at that time.
There were 411 vacancies in high courts as on February 4, 2022. Various HC collegiums had made recommendations against 172 vacancies which were then “at various stages of processing” between the government and the SC collegium. The minister had also highlighted the fact that recommendations from the HC collegiums were not received in respect of the remaining 239 vacancies.
A sources said the present government has been “proactive”, notifying a record 265 judges of high courts in the last 20 months.