Published On: Thu, Dec 15th, 2022

Government has very limited powers to fill up judicial vacancies: Kiren Rijiju

New Delhi: The issue over vacancies and appointments in the higher judiciary would prevail until a new system is created, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

Our country is governed by the Constitution and the command of its citizens

As per the constitution, the process and procedure for the appointment of judges was within the purview of the government, in consultation with the courts, the law minister said, adding, today, the government has very limited powers to fill up the judicial vacancies.

Apart from the names that are sent for approval to the government, there is no other power to propose new names. I have requested Supreme Court and high court judges both verbally and in written communication to ensure that names of quality judges are sent and all castes are included and also women judges should be considered as well, he said.

“Our country is governed by the Constitution and the command of its citizens, but today judicial vacancies have become a big reason for the huge pendency of cases in the country,” Kiren Rijiju said.

Rijiju, in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, today said that the government has recently referred back 20 names to a Supreme Court collegium recommended for the appointment as high court judges.

The matter related to appointment of judges was raised by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Shukla who also raised the issue about “working days of the court”.

Shukla asked in Rajya Sabha the details of pendency of total cases in the high courts and the Supreme Court. The Congress MP even asked about the details of the average number of days for which the high courts and Supreme Court were functioning during the last three years.

Shukla said in the upper house, “The government in its answer is saying that the right to decide the number of vacations is with the courts. The pendency of the cases at this moment is four crore and 90 lakh in the country. Litigants are running from pillar to post, disposal of cases isn’t taking place. After all, who should be held responsible – the Judiciary said the government isn’t clearing the appointments. All the vacancies are filled. The government is saying that the collegium system should be like the old NJAC proposal. So, these pendency of cases which is there, what roadmap he (law minister) has got to resolve this crisis?”

As of December 9, against the sanctioned strength of 1,108 Judges, 777 judges are working in the high courts, leaving a vacancy of 331 (30%) judges to be filled.

Against the 331 vacancies, at present, 147 proposals received from the high courts are at various stages of processing between the government and the Supreme Court collegium.

Till December 9, 2022, the government appointed a record number of 165 judges in various high courts, which is the highest in a calendar year so far. The recommendations from the high court collegiums are yet to be received in respect of 184 vacancies in the high courts.

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