A retired Karnataka High Court judge along with two advocates have moved a public interest litigation seeking expeditious filling up of 34 vacancies in the state high court, which has a total strength of 62, in the interest of justice.
The PIL has been filed by Justice AN Venugopala Gowda (Retd.) and advocates S Basavaraj and BM Arun, as the huge manpower shortage stares the justice administration in the face.
It said, "Article 226 of the Constitution invests the High Court with vide powers to prevent injustice. Writ remedy available to citizens will be meaningless, if 37 vacancies are not filled immediately".
The petition comes on the heels of the recent Supreme Court notice to the Centre on delay in finalising a memorandum of procedure for appointment of judges to the apex court and the high courts.
A division bench of Supreme Court had on October 27 taken strict view of over a year-long delay in finalising MoP despite its directions in December, 2015.
The issue of vacancies in Karnataka High Court had gained heat earlier last month as well when its seniormost puisne judge Justice Jayant Patel had resigned over his transfer to the Allahabad High court.
The state's lawyers' body had criticised the transfer at a time when the high court is suffering from the highest number of vacancies in any high court in the country.
Meanwhile, the PIL filed by Justice (Retd) Venugopala Gowda said as against the sanctioned strength of 62, Karnataka High Court has only 25 judges, of whom 8 are serving in the permanent circuit benches at Dharward (5) and Kalburgi (3). There are 28,431 criminal cases and 2,83,230 under the broader heading of civil cases. There is no adequate judge-strength qua the arrears of cases, excluding the fresh cases.
It said for "prevalence of an atmosphere where a Learned Judge would be free to act according to judicial conscience, it is necessary that judge should not be over-burdened with pressure of work which impliedly suggests that judge strength should be adequate to the requirement and must remain under constant review from time to time".
The PIL had come up for hearing before Chief Justice HG Ramesh, who posted the same before another bench since the Karnataka High Court has also been made a party.
The High Court of Karnataka has a sanctioned strength of 62 judges. Out of which, 47 posts are permanent and the remaining 15 are additional posts.
The PIL cautioned against docket explosion and failure of rule of law as a consequence of shortage of manpower and increasing number of cases and suggested periodic review of sanctioned strength of judges in a pragmatic manner on the basis of the workload.
"Article 38 of the Constitution ordains the State to secure social order for promotion of welfare of the people same can be achieved only when the courts are provided with judges, staff and infrastructure. Article 39A assures free Legal Aid which can be sought and availed only when Courts are provided or armed with sufficient manpower. Article 48A purports to protect and improve environment as well as safeguarding forest and wildlife, which cannot be implemented with depleted strength of the Judges in the Courts. This is antithetical to Constitutionalism.
"Courts lacking in manpower is an abuse of Article 38, which requires to be remedied by expediting the process of appointment of judges to the vacant positions," the PIL said.