JUDGES, VACANCIES .. Centre, SC holding back filling of judge posts; Justice Bobde, what of the judicial recruitment system you promised?


NEW DELHI: In a tug-of war between the Supreme Court and the Modi government over the delay in filling vacancies of judges, the Centre has bluntly told the apex court that it should shoulder the blame. Some 23 names proposed by various high courts are pending with the Supreme Court for as long as nine months to 33 months, the Centre has pointed out.

This response came after a division bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde told the Attorney General KK Venugopal on Wednesday that as many as 103 names recommended by various HCs to the central government has not been forwarded by the Centre to the Supreme Court collegium. This apart, the SC admitted that some 43 more fresh recommendations have come to it from the high courts for consideration. “Yes, we had deferred a decision on 23 recommendations,” the apex court said.

It was also pointed out to the government that some 16 recommendations sent by the collegium to the government have not been acted up on vis-à-vis appointment of judges.

The 25 high courts in the country have a sanctioned strength of 1080 judges. However, at present, there are only 663 judges. This meant more than one-third of the judge posts are vacant. The Indian judicial system is increasingly coming under criticism for the decades-long delay in disposal of large numbers of cases. At one time, it was stated by a CJI that some four crore of cases were pending in courts in the country for disposal. There are also serious misgivings about the way judges’ appointments are decided on. The whole system is riddled allegedly with favouritism, if not nepotism as well. 

As high as 45 lakh cases are pending in high courts alone in the country, pending disposal. Against this backdrop, the vacancies of the order of more than one-third of the total strength is a commentary on how systems are going for a toss in this country, ruled by incompetent leaders one after another whose only capability is to work crowds to a frenzy from public platforms and run away with their votes to the seats of power.

The new CJI, SA Bobde, who took charge a year ago, had promised to introduce a Judicial Service on lines of Civil Service to bring in bright talents to the judicial system, but nothing much has emerged. Also, CJIs are frequently changed, due to superannuation or appointment of judges to the post of those who have just months or a year or two to retire. 

The present Chief Justice of India, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, took charge in November 2019 and he will retire by April this year. Even then, he would be the longest-serving CJI in the past eight years. Meaning, CJIs got changed with the ease similar to a musical chair system. Irresponsible leaders at the helm of the country are creating this situation due to their ineptness in the governance process or due to the play of multiple vested interests. Narendra Modi’s government is no better and is anachronistic in most ways.

Such a frequent change of CJI is also creating a situation in which long-term planning for judicial reforms is not facilitated. Nor are successive governments with their five-year tenure and short-term goals be of any help to change systems in India for the better.  Notably, many of the reforms that PM Modi has brought about the past over six years of his rule were half-baked and did not effectively change the scenarios for the better in major ways. –IHN-NN


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