Collegium led by CJI Ramana cleared over 250 for HCs; vacancies now lowest since 2016

The Supreme Court collegium led by Justice N V Ramana as Chief Justice of India (CJI) made more than 250 recommendations for high court judge appointments, helping bring vacancies down to their lowest level since 2016.

According to data from the Ministry of Law and Justice, there are 380 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges in 25 high courts as of August 1.

The average vacancy since January 2016 has been 418 judges. The highest vacancy level in this time was 478 in August 2016.

Justice Ramana, who took charge in April 2021, will demit office on August 26. Justice Uday Umesh Lalit will take charge as CJI the following day.

During CJI Ramana’s tenure, the collegium also made 11 judge recommendations for the Supreme Court. The five-member collegium ended a 22-month deadlock, making nine recommendations to the top court at once in August 2021.

The list included, for the first time, three women — Justices Hima Kohli, B V Nagarathna and Bela Trivedi. Justice Nagarathna is in line to be the first woman CJI in 2027.

The collegium led by Justice Ramana’s predecessor, CJI S A Bobde, made 109 high court judge recommendations in his 17-month tenure. Justice Bobde, who was CJI from November 18, 2019 to April 23, 2021, retired without making a Supreme Court single judge recommendation.

The CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led collegium (his tenure was from October 3, 2018 to November 17, 2019) made 130 recommendations for the high courts and 14 for the Supreme Court.

CJI Ramana’s tenure also saw the most appointments being cleared by the government. While the government appointed 266 judges to the high courts in Justice Ramana’s time as CJI, only 104 appointments were made when Justice Bobde was CJI and 107 when Justice Gogoi held the post.

The government Sunday appointed 11 additional judges to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

A three-member collegium makes recommendations for judge appointments to high courts and a five-member collegium makes recommendations for the Supreme Court. The CJI Ramana-led collegium for high court appointments comprised Justices Lalit (CJI-designate) and A M Khanwilkar, who retired on July 29. The next collegium headed by Justice Lalit will also include Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul.

The Supreme Court’s strength will be at 30 when CJI Ramana retires on August 26. Three more judges, Justices Lalit, Indira Banerjee and Hemant Gupta, are expected to retire this year.

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