The Supreme Court on Monday said it will focus on filling vacancies before looking into a plea for increasing the strength of judges.
The court also maintained that vacancies were being filled on a war footing as Memorandum of Procedure, the guiding document for appointment of judges in the high courts and the Supreme Court, has been cleared.
A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice J S Khehar disposed of a batch of PILs for speeding up the process of appointment of judges. “We have filled up some of the vacancies. The Memorandum of Procedure is already cleared. In most of the HCs, the strength is just half. Before asking for more (increasing the number of judges), we have to fill up the existing vacancies,” said the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
The decision taken by the Justice Khehar-led bench was in contrast to the tough stand of previous CJI Justice T S Thakur, who had rebuked the NDA government for its failure to quickly process the recommendations made by the Collegium. Justice Thakur had once turned emotional in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He repeatedly demanded increase in the number of judges in subordinate judiciary.
Taking up the petitions, including one filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the court on Monday noted that the number of posts of judges in the high courts had already been increased by 25% but half of them remained vacant.
Notably, more than 200 vacancies in high courts and around 4,900 vacancies in the subordinate courts were yet to be filled. The bench also pointed out that a committee of senior judges in the Supreme Court has been recently constituted to examine the issues pertaining to judicial appointments and for streamlining and expediting the system. “This committee has been getting inputs from high courts and other agencies. The committee has invited chief justices of all high courts to sit together and suggest ways and means to streamline and expedite the process,” the court said.