Delay in appointment of judges may push up pendency at HC

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Bangalore: The advocates practising at the High Court of Karnataka fear a possible increase in the number of pending cases owing to the delay in appointment of judges and a slew of retirements this year.

Justice Nagmohan Das, a senior judge of the High Court, retired this January. Justices H S Kempanna, Indrakala and K N Keshavanarayana retired in the last 15 days. It is learnt that the services of Justice B V Pinto, who was appointed as an additional judge, have not been confirmed. The number of judges at the High Court has come down to 33 from the existing posts of 38 judges with these five retirements in the past four months. Justices Jawad Rahim K Bhaktavatsala are due for retirement later this year.

Stating that the process of appointment of Judges has been delayed significantly, Muniyappa, former president and a member of the Karnataka State Bar Council, said that the Supreme Court had sanctioned 50 judges to the State. Later on, the strength was increased to 62, by about 25 per cent. “At present the strength of Judges is 33. If we take the total sanctioned strength of 62, we are short of 29 judges, which means nearly 49 per cent of the posts of High Court judges are vacant,” said Y Sadashiva Reddy, another member of KSBC.

Separate judges are yet to be appointed to the circuit benches at Dharwad and Gulbarga, which were established in 2008. Though these benches have now been converted into permanent benches, separate judges are yet to be appointed for them.

At present, the judges from the principal bench at Bangalore are conducting the proceedings at Gulbarga and Dharwad on rotation. The Dharwad bench requires six judges, while four judges are required to conduct proceedings at Gulbarga bench.

Names rejected

An advocate who practises at High Court said on condition of anonymity that the Supreme Court collegium last year rejected and sent back the set of names recommended by the High Court collegium. “The entire process has to be started afresh,” he said.

A P Ranganath, General Secretary of Advocates’ Association, Bangalore, (AAB) said that it had been three and a half years since advocates were appointed as judges. Normally, judges to the higher judiciary are chosen from the lower courts as well as from the pool of practitioners.

“No advocate has been selected as a judge after Justices B Manohar and B V Pinto. The 35:65 ratio between Bar and Bench has to be followed while appointing the judges,” he said.

Ranganath said the AAB office-bearers have appealed to the Chief Justice D H Waghela to fill the vacancies within two months.

“We have also requested the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court Collegium to instruct the Chief Justice to expedite the process to fill the vacancies by recommending names for the post of High Court judges,” he said. The KSBC too has submitted a memorandum to Chief Justice D H Waghela urging him to expedite the appointment process.

Some advocates said hearings in Dharwad and Gulbarga circuit benches were being conducted through video conferencing due to shortage of judges.

But sources in the High Court said that video conferencing was being conducted to reduce the delay in disposal of cases. Sources also said that the process for appointment of judges has been set in motion.

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