As Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur yet again accused the government of delay in filling the 442 judicial vacancies in the High Courts, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad parried the thrust on the judiciary’s “lapse” in appointing judges to the district and subordinate courts, which need 10 times more judges. The government’s counter to the Supreme Court’s consistently sharp criticism is a pertinent question: why is the judiciary not filling the 4,937 judicial vacancies in the district and subordinate courts all over the country? The total sanctioned strength of judicial officers in district and subordinate courts is 21,320 as on June 30, 2016. Of these, 16,383 have been filled, leaving 4,937 vacancies.

Extent of Pendency of cases
The National Judicial Data Grid shows that as on November 27, the pendency in district courts is 2,30,02468 cases . Ten per cent of this pile — 2,32,3781 — are cases pending over 10 years.

As per monthly pending cases statistics released by the Supreme Court, 61,436 cases were pending in the apex court as on October 31. Over 38 lakh cases were pending in the High Courts as on December 31, 2015 — of this 7,45,029 had been pending for over a decade.

Judicial statistics show that 63 per cent of jail inmates awaiting justice, or even a court hearing, are undertrial prisoners. Further, 226 cases relating to undertrial prisoners have been pending for more than 10 years and 52 undertrial prisoners have been in jail for more than 10 years. Over 18,000 cases of undertrial prisoners have been pending for over three years.

View of Judiciary over vacancies of judicial officers
In their turn, the High Courts complain that they are not finding “suitable” candidates. But, even if all vacancies are filled, lack of basic infrastructure, even courtrooms, for the new judicial officers would be a serious handicap.