In response to the Supreme Court's allegations that there have been significant delays in judicial appointments, the government has said that it has increased the sanctioned strength of High Court judges from 906 to 1,079 and insisted that there has been no abnormal increase in the vacancies in the high courts under NDA rule.
The average annual rate of appointment of judges in the High Courts has not declined during the last two years, though no new appointments were made during April-December 2015 due to hearing of the NJAC matter, sources said.
"Government of India has utmost respect for the judiciary and its independence," the source said, against the backdrop of strong statement by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur over the vacancies not being filled up.
The sources said the government is concerned about the increasing pendency in the courts and "hence, government has been making all out efforts to see that the vacant posts are filled up".
They said while the sanctioned strength in June 2014 was 906, the present government increased it to 1,079 in June 2016.
The sources said that it is being presented in the media that the number of vacancies of judges in the High Courts has increased abnormally in recent times. "However, an analysis of data for the last 10 years indicates that there is no such abnormal increase," the sources said.
Giving details, the sources said that during the last 10 years, the number of vacancies has varied from 265 to 280.
Similarly, working strength of judges in the high courts has remained almost the same, around 600.
The current working strength in High Courts is 620, they said against the backdrop of attack by the Chief Justice of India and opposition parties, including Congress.
"Further, 173 new posts of judges were created in last two years. This has added to the vacancies in the High Courts," the sources said. During the period 2009-2014, only 20 new posts of High Court judges had been created, whereas during 2015 and 2016, 173 new posts were created.
"If we exclude that period, the average annual rate of appointment of High Courts judges has increased by 63 per cent (from 74 to 121 per year)," the sources added.
They said government is keen to expedite appointment of judges and as explained in the court, 86 fresh appointments have been made in the High Courts, 121 additional judges have been made permanent, 14 chief justices have been appointed and four chief justices transferred.
The sources said 18 additional judges have been given extension and four judges to the apex court were also appointed. Besides, 33 judges of High Courts have also been transferred.