Facing flak from the Chief Justice of India over rising vacancies in the high courts, the government on 30 November cited data to hit back, saying the Supreme Court collegium has failed to recommend even a single name in the past one year even as seven posts are lying vacant in the top court.
The government also reminded that out of 430 vacancies in the high courts, no recommendation has been received for 279 posts from any of the 24 high courts.
"There are seven vacancies in the Supreme Court, with one from as long as one year. No recommendation has been made to the government from the Supreme Court collegium," a highly- placed source told PTI on 29 November.
He pointed out that between 2015 and 2016, a total of 370 proposals were received from various high courts. Out of these, 328 were processed and sent to the Supreme Court collegium, which in turn processed 290 and held back 38 names.
"Out of the 290 names, the SC collegium rejected 99 names and recommended 191 names. At 34.13 per cent, it is one of the highest rejection rate. It only underscores the importance of improving the appraisal system against the backdrop of Supreme Court judgement on improving the collegium system," the source said. Out of the 191 names recommended by the SC collegium, government has appointed 120 as judges.
The source said 28 more names have been received by the government for high courts which are "under process".
Since 1990s the appointment average has been 80 high court judges. While the maximum was 121 in 2013, the present government has appointed 120 judges this year.
Responding to a question on vacancies in lower judiciary, the source said it id the prerogative of the high courts and the centre has no role.
There are 4,937 vacancies as on 30 June out of a sanctioned strength of 21,320.
To a poser on the delay on the part of the SC collegium to respond to the revised draft of memorandum of procedure, the source said the collegium will now have to take a call on whether to make new appointments on the old MoP or the new document as the apex court had in December ordered that the collegium system need to be made more transparent.