Around 500 vacancies in High courts today, 500 HC judges should be working today; they are not working,” Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur said, criticising the central government for not clearing appointments for high courts.
Around 500 vacancies in High courts today, 500 HC judges should be working today; they are not working: TS Thakur,CJI pic.twitter.com/nbyIKcanB7
— ANI (@ANI_news) November 26, 2016
The Chief Justice is right: Of a sanctioned strength of 1,041 judges in high courts across India, 442 posts (42%) were vacant as on March 31, 2016, according to 2016 Supreme Court data, the latest available.
The Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh & Telangana high courts face the largest deficit of judges—59%, followed by the Allahabad (56%) and Rajasthan & Jharkhand high courts (52%). Only Manipur and Tripura high courts are working at full strength.
Source: Supreme Court of India.
In the lower courts – district & subordinate – of a sanctioned strength of 21,017 judges, 4882 posts (23%) are vacant, the data reveal.
More than 20 million cases are pending in the districts courts; two-thirds are criminal cases and one in 10 has been pending for more than 10 years, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016. In Gujarat, it would take 287 years to clear pending cases in the lower courts.
Delhi has India’s worst population-to-judge ratio with about 500,000 people to a judge compared to the national average of 73,000 people to one judge.
Cases decided over a five-year period—between 2009 and 2013—in India’s district and subordinate courts would increase 25% if all judicial positions were filled, according to an analysis by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, based on data obtained from Supreme Court reports, IndiaSpend reported in December 2015.
(Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)