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478 vacancies in 24 HCs where 39 lakh cases are pending: Govt

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New Delhi: On a day the Supreme Court expressed anguish over the Centre’s failure to implement the collegium’s decisions on transfer and appointment of judges, the Rajya Sabha was informed that 478 vacancies are yet to be filled up in 24 high courts of the country and nearly 39 lakh cases are pending there.

The government also said the sanctioned strength of judges in the high courts has increased from 906 in June 2014 to 1079 in June this year. Though the sanctioned strength has increased, according to the latest Law Ministry data, as on August 1, the working strength of the 24 high courts is 601 judges, which means 478 vacancies are yet to be filled up. The Supreme Court, with a sanctioned strength of 31 judges, including the Chief Justice, has three vacancies.

The figures relating to total number of pending cases in the high courts and the increased sanctioned strength of judges was given by Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary in a written response to a question.

Giving out the reasons behind pendency of cases, he said increased impact of state and central legislations, accumulation of first appeals, vacancies of judges, frequent adjournments were the main causes for pending cases.

“The collegium has cleared 75 names of high court judges (for transfer/ appointment) but they have not been approved. I don’t know why, where these files are stuck,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said today while hearing a PIL on the issue.

“Why there is mistrust? Judges who have been transferred by the collegium, have not been transferred. We don’t want all this,” the bench also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

During the brief hearing, the bench referred to the rising vacancies of judges in the high courts and the increasing number of pending cases. “The vacancy in high courts has risen to 43 per cent and there are four million cases in the high courts. The whole system is collapsing,” the bench said.

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