Speaking exclusively to TOI about the large vacancies in various HCs and the time lapse between each set of recommendations and appointments, the law minister said that if the vacancies in the HCs are examined, it could be seen that they are not pending with the government. “Either they are in process or with the Supreme Court collegium, ”he explained. As of October 1, the country’s 25 HCs had 471 vacant judge positions.
In accordance with the established procedure, after a collegiate of HC, made up of the president of the Supreme Court and two high-ranking judges of the HC in question, make recommendations, the file goes to the Ministry of Justice with a copy to the collegium of SC . In each new appointment of a HC judge, the Ministry of Justice carries out a mandatory verification through the Intelligence Office (IB) to know the background and reputation of the person in the Bar Association and society. This assessment is shared with the SC.
Rijiju said that delays are often due to circumstantial reasons, but that file cleaning has been sped up and is being done in the right spirit, much faster now. However, he said that both the SC college and the government are on the same page to fill the sanctioned force in the HC. “We are working with the SC college on appointments and file cleaning as quickly as possible,” he said.
The minister thanked the efforts made by CJI NV Ramana and said the government has a “complete understanding” with the South Carolina college to move faster in dating. There are currently around 200 recommendations in various stages of processing.
The minister’s comments are significant considering that the CJI had recently expressed concern about the delay in the processing of files recommended by the collegiate of the Supreme Court. Judge Ramana had specifically asked the minister to investigate the delays and clarify all outstanding recommendations.
The IB report on candidates is followed by due diligence at the Ministry of Justice on professional skills, as well as verification of other eligibility criteria, including minimum annual income and age requirement. Once the verification is complete, the report with the files is sent to the SC school for approval. On average, up to 50% of the recommendations are sent back to the HC college for reconsideration after due diligence by the government and the SC college.
Rijiju also noted that the judiciary should consider giving wider representation to women and the weaker sectors of society. While some states have granted up to a 35% reserve for women in the lower judiciary, there is no such quota in the higher judiciary. A 2016 report from the ministry found that the representation of women in the judiciary was less than 28% in subordinate courts and less than 12% in the higher judiciary.
On the huge dispute in the courts, the minister said that it is time for justice to be delivered at the door. “The process of doing justice to the poor must be faster and easier,” said the minister, referring to the justice-on-wheels schemes initiated by the high courts of Uttarakhand And some others.