No new judges were appointed to the higher judiciary for eight months when the Supreme Court was deciding on the validity of a new law on appointment of judges, the government said on Friday and pointed out various causes such as increase in sanctioned strength of judges and retirements as reasons behind vacancies.
Minister of State for Law P P Chaudhary told Rajya Sabha that there are vacancies in the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts and these “mainly occurred” due to increase in the sanctioned strength of judges from 906 in June 2014 to 1079 now, resignation, death and elevation of judges.
“Further, in view of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (Act) case from April, 2015 till the date of pronouncement of judgement on December 16, 2015, only those additional judges whose terms were expiring were given extension of three months as per Supreme Court orders...no other appointments were made,” he said in a written reply.
The law, which sought to overturn the over two decade old collegium system where judges appoint judges and give the executive a say in judicial appointments, was struck down by the apex court.
He said at the initiative of the government, the matter was taken up with the Supreme Court and the process of appointment of judges has been resumed.
“During 2016, 110 additional judges of high courts have been made permanent. Four and 52 judges have been appointed in the Supreme Court and the high court respectively,” he said.