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Fix ‘all bottlenecks’ behind delay in HC judges’ appointment: Parliamentary panel to Government

A Parliamentary panel has asked the government to “fix all bottlenecks” responsible for delays in the appointment of high court judges, saying the vacancies must be filled with the same zeal as shown in the appointment of Supreme Court judges. An apex court bench had recently expressed concern over delay in appointment and transfer of HC judges.

Last week, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had asserted that it is the bounden duty of the government to carry out due diligence on the names recommended by the collegium. “Otherwise I’ll be sitting there as a post master,” he had said.

In its report on the demands for grants of the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry, the standing committee on personnel and law also observed that the government and the Supreme Court have failed to reach a consensus on revision of the Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) for appointment of judges to the apex court and the high courts, “though the same is under consideration of both for about seven years now”.

The MoP is a set of documents which guide the appointment, transfer and elevation of SC and HC judges.

The panel headed by BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi pointed out that as on December 31, 2022, vacancies in the high courts stood at 30 per cent of the total strength of 1,108.

“Six high courts have vacancies of 40 per cent and above and another six have vacancies in the range of 30 to 40 per cent. Though the situation has improved over the last year, the vacancies at the high court level are quite significant,” it observed.

In smaller states such as Manipur and Tripura where the bench strength is small, high levels of vacancies leads divisional benches not being constituted for want of judges “and if there is some retirement or elevation or transfers, the working of such high courts are brought to a standstill,” it observed.

“Accordingly, the Committee recommends the Department of Justice to fix all the bottlenecks responsible for delays in the appointment of Judges at the High Court. Only recently appointments in the Supreme Court were done on a fast pace and it is functioning with full strength now. The appointments to High Courts also deserve same treatment and the vacancies must be filled with same zeal,” the report read.

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