Six High Courts don’t have regular Chief Justices

Six high courts in the country are without regular chief justices for the past several months and at least four chief justices of various high courts will be retiring in 2017.

The Acting Chief Justices in the six high courts are Justices Nishita Mhatre (Calcutta), Gita Mittal (Delhi), Sanjay Karol (Himachal Pradesh), D.N. Patel (Jharkhand), N. Kotiswar Singh (Manipur) and Ramesh Ranganathan in the High Court of Judicature for the States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Temporary arrangement

Acting Chief Justices take over the responsibilities of the top judge of the State judiciary as a temporary arrangement. It is meant to fill the vacuum for a short time till the formalities for the appointment of a regular Chief Justice are completed.

However, Justice Ranganathan has been the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh since July 30, 2016. That is well over a year.

Justice Mhatre has been Acting Chief Justice since December 1, 2016; Justice Mittal since April 14, 2017; Justice Karol since April 25, 2017; Justice Patel since June 10, 2017 and Justice Singh since July 1, 2017.

The year will also see four crucial retirements in the State judiciaries. Justice Mhatre is set to retire on September 19.

This will be followed by the retirement of Karnataka HC Chief Justice S.K. Mukherjee on October 9. Kerala HC Chief Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh will retire on November 5.

Finally, Bombay HC Chief Justice Manjula Chellur will retire on December 4.

Again, the transfer of Justice K.M. Joseph from the Uttarakhand HC to the Hyderabad HC as its Chief Justice is still believed to be under consideration by the government. The Supreme Court collegium had recommended the transfer around May 2016. Sources say the government cannot “sit on” a collegium recommendation. It has either to approve or disapprove the recommendation and, in the latter case, send it back to the collegium. Normally, the government has to convey its decision on a collegium recommendation in three months. Justice J. Chelameswar, one of the judges in the Supreme Court collegiums, had even sent a strongly worded dissent note for not elevating Justice Joseph to the Supreme Court.

This is the situation even as the statistics on judicial vacancies in high courts look bleak at 413 out of a total approved strength of 1079 in all the 24 high courts as of September 1, 2017. In some high courts, vacancies are more than the actual number of judges working. In Karnataka HC, there are 35 vacancies compared to 27 working judges. In Calcutta HC, there are 41 judicial vacancies to 31 working judges. The same is the case in Manipur, which has three vacancies to two working judges.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 8:56:12 AM |

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