One In Three High Court Judgeships Vacant: L

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (UNI) Almost one in three High Court judgeships across India is vacant, although the government has acted 'promptly' in processing proposals it gets from Chief Justices, the Law and Justice Ministry reported today.

''Against an approved strength of 886 judges, 620 judges were in position on 30.9.2008,'' a Ministry statement said citing information given in Parliament. That left ''266 vacancies to be filled up,'' the Ministry said.

Arithmetically, that amounts to a vacancy-strength ratio of 1:3.33.

In the Supreme Court, against an approved strength of 26 judges, including the Chief Justice of India, 23 judges were in position as on 30.9.2008, leaving three vacancies to be filled up, it noted.

It pointed out that the ''entire process of initiation of proposal for appointment of a judge of a Supreme Court lies with the Chief Justice of India and for the appointment of a Judge of a High Court, with the Chief Justice of that High Court.'' It said the government ''has been periodically reminding the Chief Justices of the High Courts to initiate proposal for filling up all vacant posts of judges in the High Court as also those which will be falling vacant during the next six months.'' Experts have often questioned the persistent vacancies given authorities' foreknowledge as to when a vacancy is due to arise and therefore the onus to select candidates ahead of time, maybe even form a pool from which to assign judges as vacancies arise.

The issue has been recognised as one of key factors in failure to tackle case arrears which have continued to mount.

For its part, the government said ''the proposals received are processed by the government promptly for filling up of the vacancies.'' The Ministry said the High Courts' strength is reviewed every three years, which happened in 2006, but was repeated in 2007 and 2008, given the large pendency in Courts-- some 30 million cases.

As a result, 163 posts of judges have been created in various High Courts, it said.

A Bill introduced in Parliament seven months ago seeks to raise the strength of the Supreme Court from the present 26 to 31 judges, including the CJI.

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