Days after the Supreme Court expressed concern over vacancies in the higher judiciary, the latest Law Ministry data shows that six high courts are functioning without regular chief justices even as posts of 478 judges are lying vacant.
The high courts of Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura are without full time chief justices as on August 1, the data stated.
According to the figures, 24 high courts are functioning with 601 judges even as the approved strength is 1079, facing a shortage of 478 judges at a time when nearly 39 lakh cases are pending in these courts.
The government also said the sanctioned strength of judges in the high courts had increased from 906 in June 2014 to 1,079 in June this year.
Observing that justice delivery system is “collapsing”, the Supreme Court had on August 12 sent out a stern message to the Centre over non-execution of collegium’s decision to transfer and appoint Chief Justices and judges in high Courts, saying it will not tolerate the “logjam” and would intervene to make it accountable.
Expressing its anguish over mounting vacancies, the court had also said that it appears the centre was trying to bring judiciary to a halt by not appointing and transferring judges as decided by the collegium.
One of the prominent collegium recommendations pending with the government is the transfer of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to Andhra Pradesh/Telangana High Court. The recommendation was made in early May.
The Supreme Court, with a sanctioned strength of 31 judges, including the Chief Justice, has three vacancies.