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India's lower courts are sitting on 4 crore cases. Filling judicial vacancies must be a priority

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When Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju at a seminar in Jaipur on July 16 expressed concern about a backlog of around five crore cases piling up in the country’s courts, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said that one of the biggest reasons for this was the high number of judicial vacancies, along with a lack of judicial infrastructure.

The issue of judicial vacancies keeps being raised and is a sore point in the relationship between the judiciary and the executive. For instance, at a conference in October, Ramana complained that the Centre had only cleared seven names of the 106 candidates recommended to be appointed as High Court judges. But Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha in December that the Centre could not be blamed for sitting on appointments.

However, in these conversations, the focus was firmly on judicial vacancies in India’s High Courts. The problem that does not get highlighted quite enough is the vacancies in the lower courts, which come under the state governments and High Courts.

These vacancies are important as around 4.1 crore pending cases are before these courts. The lower judiciary presently has around 5,300 seats vacant – over 20% of its capacity. Different states have different procedures, and thus unique problems, when it comes to...

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