With verdict on the National Judicial Appointments Commission still pending, a total of 384 posts in 24 High Courts of the country are vacant, being a clear indicator of the lack of manpower in the sentinels of justice across the country. The apex Court has 3 vacancies currently.
The following graph shows the approved strength, the working strength and the vacancies in the High Courts across the country, as on 1st August, 2015:
A perusal of the graph indicates that Allahabad High Court has the largest number of vacancies, standing at 84. Allahabad High Court is hence working at less than half of its strength presently. Chattisgarh High Court is functioning on 40% of its strength, while Karnataka High Court is working on 51% of its strength.
Out of the 24 High Courts, 13 are working on less than 65% of its approved strength, considerably waning the working capacity of the Judiciary.
Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim and Tripura High Courts are the only ones functioning on 100% of its strength. Manipus High Court is functioning with 1 vacancy. Even though Punjab and Haryana High Court has the second largest approved strength, it is working with 63% of that strength.
The vacancies in the High Courts of the country account for 37% of the total approved strength of Judges for the High Courts. This can clearly be linked to the ever increasing pendency of cases in the High Courts. This has been an incerase in the vacancies since January, without any mechanism to appoint or elevate judges to the higher judiciary. As on January 1 this year, the High Courts across the country had 345 vacancies, while on August 1, this increased to 384. You may read: High Courts of the country enter 2015 with 35% vacancies; Allahabad HC functioning with 50% of approved strength of Judges
With the High Courts functioning at 62% of their approved strength, the dream for reducing the pendency of cases is unlikely to materialize in the near future. The condition is aggravated by the absence of any mechanism to appoint or elevate Judges to the High Judiciary.
As a precautionary measure, Law Ministry had decided to re-extend the services of three Additional Judges of the Gauhati High Court, out of the 22 Additional Judges of various High Courts set to retire in the next two months. As per a TOI Report, the three Additional Judges were on extension after May where their two-year contractual appointment had come to an end. The Government had also extended the tenure of seven Additional Judges of the Bombay High Court. The 22 Additional Judges who are set to retire are from High Courts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bombay, Andhra Pradesh and Calcutta.
The Supreme Court had last month reserved its judgment in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case and stated that the interim order would continue to be in effect till the verdict is finally given. You may read the LiveLaw story here.
With the decision still pending, the dismal straits for High Courts is likely to worsen in the near future as there are already large number of vacancies in High Courts which is the main cause for backlog of cases in the country.