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There are 40% vacancies in HC, with many larger HC working under 50% of their sanctioned strength:SC

We, thus, once again, emphasise the requirement and desirability of the Chief Justices of the High Courts, who will make endeavour to recommend vacancies as early as possible even if they are not made at one go. We may add that even in the earlier orders we have noted the apparent hesitation of some High Courts to recommend names when the earlier list(s) is in the pipeline. We have opined that there is no such impediment to initiate a new process without waiting for the result of the earlier recommendations. (Para 5)



Decided on April 20th, 2021

CJI S.A.Bobde Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul Justice Surya Kant presided over the petition whereby it was urged to look into the present vacancies in the High Courts.

Learned Attorney General has placed before us the appointment position in the High Courts to contend that against the sanctioned strength of 1080 Judges, 664 Judges have been appointed with vacancies of 416 Judges. However, the recommendations received and under process with the Government are 196 leaving 220 recommendations to be received.

The issue dealing with the aspect of appointment of ad hoc Judges under Article 224A of the Constitution of India has already been discussed in WP(C) No.1236/2019. Vide separate order in the aforementioned matter passed today, we have also discussed the process of appointment under Articles 217 & 224 of the Constitution of India.

The importance of the Chief Justices of the High Court’s making recommendations in time is to be stressed upon. The vacancies are known and the norms permit making recommendations up to six months in advance. However, even recommendations for 220 existing vacancies appear not to have been made much less for vacancies, which are going to arise in the next six months.

Learned Attorney General the requirement of time-bound schedule for filling the vacancies at every stage though he emphasised that the trigger for filling up of the vacancies is the recommendations made by the Chief Justices of the High Courts. However, once the recommendations are made, there are two stages at which the matter rests with the Government – the first when the Ministry processes the names; and the second post the Collegium of the Supreme Court taking a call in recommending such of the names as are approved by the Collegium.

With a reference made to Third Judge’s case (1998) 7 SCC (Special Reference 1 of 1998)this Court laid down the following timeline for timely appointments:

i. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) should submit its report/inputs within 4 to 6 weeks from the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium, to the Central Government.

ii. It would be desirable that the Central Government forward the file(s)/recommendations to the Supreme Court within 8 to 12 weeks from the date of receipt of views from the State Government and the report/input from the IB.

iii. It would be for the Government to thereafter proceed to make the appointment immediately on the aforesaid consideration and undoubtedly if Government has any reservations on suitability or in public interest, within the same period of time it may be sent back to the Supreme Court Collegium with the specific reasons for reservation recorded.

If the Supreme Court Collegium after consideration of the aforesaid inputs still reiterates the recommendation(s) unanimously (Cl. 24.1), such appointment should be processed and appointment should be made within 3 to 4 weeks. (Para 11)

With the above directions in place, the proceeding was closed.



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