New Delhi: There are four vacancies in the Supreme Court and three high courts are functioning without regular chief justices, sources in the government said, pointing out that the law ministry is yet to receive recommendations from the SC collegium to fill up the slots.
The first vacancy in the Supreme Court arose following the retirement of Justice Ranjan Gogoi in November 2019 as the Chief Justice of India. Subsequently, three more vacancies arose in the top court following the retirements of justices Deepak Gupta, R Bhanumathi and Arun Mishra. With a sanctioned strength of 34, the apex court is functioning with 30 judges.
The high courts of Gauhati, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand are functioning with officiating chief justices. Officiating or acting chief justices are appointed in the absence of a chief justice to ensure that the day to day administration of the court is not affected. The government has so far not received any recommendation from the collegium to fill up these vacancies in the SC and the three high courts, a senior functionary said. Vacancies keep arising in courts due to retirement, resignation or elevation of judges.
The government has maintained that appointment of judges in the high courts is a "continuous collaborative process" between the Executive and the Judiciary, as it requires consultation and approval from various constitutional authorities. As per the procedure for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the 25 high courts, the apex court collegium recommends the names of candidates to the government which, in turn, either accepts the proposal or returns it for reconsideration. The collegium comprises the CJI and four senior-most judges of the apex court.
The combined sanctioned strength of the 25 high courts is 1,079 judges. As on October 1, there were 404 vacancies, with the maximum of 60 in the Allahabad High Court. As on September 1, there were 398 vacancies in the high courts and as on September 1, 48 new judges in various HCs have been appointed.