Judiciary Watch: 426 vacancies in high courts, pendency grows to more than 15 lakh

Almost 42% of High Court judge positions are lying vacant, according to the latest Department of Justice statistics.

The number of vacancies has increased to 426, from 410 last month, largely due to the retirement of 12 judges – 2 permanent and 10 additional judges – from the Patna High Court. This means that the high court now has 25 out of 43 positions lying vacant, with its vacancy percentage increasing to 58.1% from 30.2% last month.

Two judges from the Punjab & Haryana High Court and one each from the Bombay and Kerala High Courts also retired last month.

The terms of three additional judges from the Gauhati High Court has been extended by three months.

Pendency figures

Over the years, the increasing pendency of cases in Indian courts has been attributed to the number of judicial vacancies. So how far is this co-relation true with respect to the high courts?

A glance at the statistics provided by Dakshlegal’s database reveals that it is a valid comparison, but only to an extent.

Below is a table of the high courts with the highest pendency, compared with the percentage of their judicial vacancies.

High Court Pending Cases % of Vacancies
High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad 311669 44.9%
Karnataka High Court 234795 50%
Calcutta High Court 213376 27.6%
Delhi High Court 142682 35%
Kerala High Court 137883 7.9%
Gujarat High Court 112679 46.1%

As is evident, the connection between pendency and vacancies would hold true for the High Courts at Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat. However, the statistics of the Calcutta and Kerala High Courts certainly reveal a different story. Moreover, the Allahabad High Court, with a vacancy percentage of 53.1%, has only 27883 pending cases, almost a tenth of the pendency at the Karnataka High Court.

The fact remains that there are several other factors that contribute to pendency, the most recent being the NJAC issue, which effectively stalled judicial appointments for almost six months.

In any case, the rising amount of judicial vacancies is not helping the pendency figures. There are more than 15 lakh cases pending in 18 high courts alone.

And this backlog of cases is not limited to the high courts alone. As regards the bigger perspective, the number of pending cases in all courts across the country is above the 2 crore mark, as per the National Judicial Data Grid.

While the Allahabad High Court may have a relatively low number of pending cases, the state of Uttar Pradesh accounts for a whopping 48 lakh pending cases. To put that in perspective, that is 23.35% of the total cases pending in courts across the country.

State Pending Cases in all courts % of total
Uttar Pradesh 4830463 23.35%
Maharashtra 3011084 14.55%
Gujarat 2225032 10.75%
West Bengal 1381276 6.68%
Bihar 1375287 6.65%
Rajasthan 1274811 6.16%
Karnataka 1186607 5.74%