Chief Justice of India TS Thakur has lambasted the Centre over the huge vacancies in the higher judiciary. Justice Thakur said, "Today 500 judges' posts are vacant in high courts. Today we have vacant court room but no judges."
"There are around 500 vacancies in High Courts today. 500 High Court judges should be working today, they are not working," Thakur said while addressing an All India Conference of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in New Delhi.
Justice Thakur also said there was a lack of infrastructure being provided to tribunals, due to which several of them are empty.
"Government is not ready to give proper facilities. Vacancy apart from infrastructure is a major concern for tribunals. Tribunals are not equipped and are lying empty. Today a situation has come that when no retired Supreme Court judge wants to head a tribunal," he said.
Thakur has often been critical of the government and has given statements in the past concerning issues plaguing the judiciary system in the country. Thakur claimed that Tribunals are not equipped and said, "Tribunals are not equipped and are lying empty. Today a situation has come that when no retired Supreme Court judge wants to head the Tribunal. I am pained to send my retired colleagues there. Government is not ready to give proper facilities. Vacancy apart from infrastructure is a major concern for the Tribunal."
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, disagreed and said the government has made 120 appointments this year.
"We respectfully disagree with him (Chief Justice). We have made 120 appointments this year. Since 1990 there have only been 80 appointments. 5,000 vacancies are there in lower judiciaries in which the government of India has no role to play. That is something for only to judiciary to take. As far as infrastructure is concerned, that is a continuous process," Mr Prasad said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the government's top lawyer, meanwhile stressed the need for "introspection" by the judiciary.
"Everyone must remain within the Lakshman rekha. The framers (of the Constitution) did not want a situation where someone acts above another. If we follow a path where the three spheres are in equilibrium, we will bring back equilibrium," said Mr Rohatgi.
On 18 November, the Supreme Court collegium had refused to accept the government's rejection of 43 of the 77 names that were recommended for the judicial appointments in the High Courts. The government had made appointments of 37 names. Regarding the issue, Thakur had said that "We (Collegium) have already met. We have reiterated all the 43 names sent to us."
In April, Justice Thakur broke down at a meeting in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while talking about the pressure on judges and the need to appoint more.