Ending a months-long logjam that strained the relationship between the government and the judiciary, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led government has finally initiated the process of appointing 44 new judges at various high courts across the country.
The appointment of these 44 candidates was mired in controversy as the Centre had initially rejected the selections made by the Supreme Court collegium.
Chief Justice of India JS Khehar achieved what his predecessor could not, making good on the promise he had made when he was elevated earlier this year.
The relationship between the government and the judiciary had worsened under former CJI S Thakur, who tried to make appointments in the superior courts. Thakur wept, cajoled, remonstrated, shouted and issued threats, but to no avail.
The filibuster that dogged the judiciary and the government was at its peak when in 2016 the Centre returned the candidates proposed by the collegium twice. The government held its ground even though the SC has over-riding power over judicial appointments.
Highly placed sources revealed that 29 of the 44 candidates are from the Allahabad High Court, seven are from the Calcutta High Court, six from Madras and two from Karnataka.
The latest announcement indicates the increasing thaw between the government and the judiciary. According to an established practice, once a collegium reiterates its suggestion of a candidate, the government usually appoints him or her as a judge. However, in the recent past, the Modi-led government had shown its disapproval over suggestions and sent back several names to the collegium twice.
The latest appointment of judges will add to the 17 judges who were appointed at the Bombay and the Jammu and Kashmir High Courts. Fourteen judges were appointed in Mumbai, whereas three were appointed in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the SC has put off its plan to elevate Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal — the third senior-most judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court — as the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court after SC judges Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ranjan Gogoi intervened in the matter.
The two apex court judges — who were also once at the Punjab and Haryana High Court — suggested that by elevating Justice Mittal, and superseding Justice SS Saron, the second senior-most judge, a wrong message would be sent out.
Justice Mittal’s appointment may have to wait till September, when Justice Saron retires. Elevation to the Delhi High Court — the second-most important and busiest after the top court — is considered to be prestigious. It is said that elevation to the Delhi High Court paves one’s way for promotion to the Supreme Court.
According to data available on the Department of Justice website, 24 high courts across the country are working on a strength of 660 judges as opposed to the truncated strength of 1,079. The shortage of 419 judges is taking its toll, as there are more than 3 crore cases pending in courts across India.
1 JUDGE, 45K CASES
24 high courts are working on a strength of 660 judges.
However, the truncated strength is of 1,079 judges.
There are more than 3 cr cases pending in courts.