“Around 500 vacancies in High Courts today, 500 HC judges should be working today; they are not working,” Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said on Saturday, criticising the Central government for not not clearing appointments to High Courts.
The chief justice is right: Of a sanctioned strength of 1,041 judges in High Courts across India, 442 posts (42%) were vacant as on March 31, according to 2016 Supreme Court data, the latest available.
The Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Courts face the largest deficit of judges – 59%, followed by the Allahabad (56%) and Rajasthan and Jharkhand High Courts (52%). Only Manipur and Tripura High Courts are working at full strength.
In the lower courts – district and subordinate – of a sanctioned strength of 21,017 judges, 4882 posts (23%) are vacant, the data reveal.
More than 20 million cases are pending in the districts courts; two-thirds are criminal cases and one in 10 has been pending for more than 10 years, IndiaSpend reported in April. In Gujarat, it would take 287 years to clear pending cases in the lower courts.
The current judge-to-population ratio is 10.5 per million population, although the 120th report by Law Commission in 1987 recommended a judge-to-population ratio of 50 per million population.
Delhi has India’s worst population-to-judge ratio with about 500,000 people to a judge, compared to the national average of 73,000 people to one judge.
Cases decided over a five-year period – between 2009 and 2013 – in India’s district and subordinate courts would increase 25% if all judicial positions were filled, according to an analysis by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, based on data obtained from Supreme Court reports, IndiaSpend reported in December 2015.
This article first appeared on Fact Checker.