In another determined effort to fill the vacant posts in the High Courts and improve their work, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana recommended the appointment of Chief Justices for eight HCs and authorized the transfer of five HC Chief Justices.
Coming amid concerns over the backlog of court cases resulting from vacant posts, the decision is seen as an important step and reflects the College’s “collective determination to strengthen the judiciary by filing vacancies.”
It also comes just a month after the Collegium set some sort of record by recommending nine judges to the highest court, leaving it just one vacancy out of a sanctioned staff of 34 judges. This was followed by recommendations to fill 94 vacancies in various HCs, the highest ever recorded by the Collegium in such a short time.
In line with resolutions posted on the Supreme Court’s official webpage on Tuesday, members of the Collegium who met on September 16 recommended the elevation of the Acting Chief Justice (CJ) of Calcutta HC, Judge Rajesh Bindal. , as CJ of Allahabad HC; and Judge Prakash Shrivastava of Madhya Pradesh HC as Chief Justice of Calcutta HC. The Acting Chief Justice of Chattisgarh HC, Judge Prashant Kumar Mishra, has been recommended as the new Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh HC; while Judge Rituraj Awasthi, now with Allahabad HC, was recommended as Karnataka HC CJ.
The College recommended Judge Satish Chandra Sharma of Karnataka HC for the office of Telengana HC CJ, and Judge Ranjit V More of Bombay HC as Meghalaya HC CJ. Judge Aravind Kumar of Karnataka HC was recommended as Chief Justice of Gujarat HC, and Acting Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh HC, RV Malimath, was recommended as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh.
While some of the eight CJ positions were already vacant, four others became vacant after the elevation of Judges Hima Kohli, Vikram Nath, Abhay S Oka and JK Maheshwari – who were CJs of Telengana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Sikkim HCs respectively – as Supreme Judges of the Court recently.
The five Chief Justices recommended for transfer are Judge Arup Kumar Goswami from Andhra Pradesh HC to Chhattisgarh HC, Judge Mohammad Rafiq from Madhya Pradesh HC to Himachal Pradesh HC, Judge Akil Kureshi from Tripura HC to Rajasthan HC, Judge Indrajit Mahanty from Rajasthan HC to Tripura HC, and Judge Biswanath Somadder from Meghalaya HC to Sikkim HC.
The resolutions also show that the Collegium, in meetings held on September 16 and 21, authorized the transfer of 23 judges from the HC. Five of those names are reiterations, indicating that the Collegium had decided to uphold its recommendation on them, despite representations from individual judges for reconsideration.
The Indian Express had previously reported that the Collegium proposed 28 names of HC judges for transfer and learned that the process continues with more names.
After taking office as CJI in April this year, Judge Ramana recommended nearly 100 names for appointment to different high courts, in addition to filling nine Supreme Court justices.
The country’s 25 high courts have a combined sanctioned staff of 1,080 judges and as of May 1, 2021, they were only functioning with 420 judges.