The Supreme Court has seven vacancies, two high courts are functioning without regular chief justices and two high court chief justices are set to retire in the next one and a half months, a government functionary said.
He said the government is awaiting recommendations from the court 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 (CJI).
A few more vacancies arose in the Supreme Court following the retirements of justices Deepak Gupta, R Bhanumathi, Arun Mishra, Indu Malhotra, and SA Bobde, who demitted office as the CJI last month. Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar died in April.
With a sanctioned strength of 34, the court is functioning with 27 judges at present.
The high courts of Allahabad and Calcutta are being run by acting chief justices.
The chief justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court will retire later this month, while the chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court will retire in June, the functionary pointed out.
The 25 high courts of the country have a combined sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges, but are functioning with 660, a shortfall of 420 judges, according to May 1 figures available on the website of the Department of Justice.
Vacancies keep arising in courts due to retirement, resignation or elevation of judges.
The government has maintained that appointment of judges in 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 court collegium recommends the names of candidates to the government which, in turn, either accepts the proposal or returns it for reconsideration.
The high court collegiums first send their recommendations to the Law Ministry which in turn processes the files by attaching Intelligence Bureau reports and forwards it to the SC collegium. The SC collegium comprises the CJI and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
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