At a time when the stand-off continues between the executive and the judiciary over appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, a major development took place recently that offers a ray of hope. The Narendra Modi government appointed five chief justices of the high courts. This step will at least address the complaint from the judiciary that the centre is sitting pretty on its recommendations for appointments to the high courts which are at present functioning with only 40 percent of their sanctioned strength. According to the sources, there are well over 480 judicial vacancies in the high courts.
The Seniormost judges of the high courts—Kerala, Kolkata, Sikkim, Tripura and Manipur—have been elevated as chief justices. Justice GC Gupta of the Calcutta High Court has been appointed as its new chief justice. Justice Mohan Mallikarjunagouda Shantanagoudar, who was serving as the acting chief justice of the Kerala High Court, has been elevated as its chief justice. The Acting Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, Justice Satish Kumar Agnihotri, has been appointed as the chief justice of that court. Justices Rakesh Ranjan Prasad and T Vaiphei have been elevated as chief justices of Manipur and Tripura high courts, respectively.
This move is likely to give the much-needed push to the centre’s thrust on filling up vacancies in high courts. In fact, on September 14, the centre had assured a Supreme Court bench that there was no logjam in the appointments of the judges in high courts and on the contrary it were the high courts who were procrastinating on the issue.
This reply had been submitted by the Centre when the apex court had asked what it was doing to clear the huge backlog of vacancies in the high courts. The apex court was hearing a PIL which had sought directions from the Supreme Court to the centre citing huge stockpile of cases and vacancies in the judiciary.
—By India Legal Bureau