The government is learnt to have initiated the process for appointing 44 high court judges after initially having returned their names to the Supreme Court collegium for reconsideration on two occasions. While 29 candidates are from the Allahabad High Court, two are from Karnataka, seven from Calcutta and six from the Madras high courts, highly-placed sources said today. On April 10, the Collegium -a body of five senior-most judges of the apex court — had for the second time reaffirmed its decision recommending the candidates for appointment as HC judges.
The decision to reiterate the recommendation for the second time was taken by the collegium, now headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar. As per an established practice, the government usually appoints a person as a judge once the collegium reiterates its recommendation.
But in the recent past, the Modi government had expressed its disapproval of the collegium’s recommendations by returning them more than once. Last week, a total of 17 judges were appointed to the Bombay and the Jammu and Kashmir high courts.
While 14 judges were appointed to the Bombay High Court, three were appointed to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The approved strength of the 24 high courts is 1,079 judges, but they are functioning with a truncated strength of 629 — a shortage of 450 judges.
The government is unlikely to increase the approved strength of high court judges but focus on filling vacancies. Sources in the law ministry said the present strength of 1,079 is unlikely to be raised this year as the main focus would be to fill up vacancies in the 24 high courts. Over three crore cases are pending in courts across India.