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Recruitment of Kerala HC judges in limbo even as pending cases touch two lakh

There are vacancies of 10 judges and the collegium of the High Court has not recommended any names in nearly one-and-a-half years. Judges were appointed to the HC last in October 2021.

January 22, 2023 06:50 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:03 am IST - KOCHI

Questions are being raised about the speedy dispensation of justice in the Kerala High Court, which has around two lakh cases pending and vacancies of 10 judges. The collegium of the Kerala High Court has not recommended any names in nearly one-and-a-half years to be appointed as judges. The delay in proposing names of judges to fill the vacancies has triggered a discussion in the legal circles even as the Union government and the Supreme Court are engaged in a heated debate over the collegium system of selection of judges to the High Courts and the apex court.

Judges were last appointed to the Kerala High Court in October 2021 when four officers from the district judiciary, C. Jayachandran, Sophy Thomas, P.G. Ajithkumar, and C.S. Sudha, were elevated to the higher judiciary. Since then, no recommendations for the appointment of judges were made from Kerala, legal sources indicated.

Filling of vacancies

The existing 10 vacancies in the High Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 47 judges, will have to be filled by picking six officers from the judicial service and two from among the lawyers of the High Court. The names of two lawyers from Kerala, which were recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier, were not approved by the Union government, forcing the collegium to reiterate its proposal. However, the government has not taken any decision in this case, according to legal sources.

The Kerala collegium, which consists of three senior judges, including the Chief Justice of Kerala, can be convened only on a notice issued by the Chief Justice. Though the secretariat of the office of the Chief Justice had earlier drawn up a list of 12 senior judicial officials of the district judiciary and invited their judgements for review as part of the performance appraisal, the appointment process stopped there. Besides the burgeoning number of cases and the delayed dispensation of justice, the delay in appointing the judges will also affect the career prospects of the eligible candidates, felt sources.

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