With the collegium system staging a comeback after a gap of six months, it has its task cut out — to fill over 400 vacancies in high courts and appointing full-time chief justices in eight states.
The government on its part will have to decide on nearly 120 recommendations made by the collegium before the system was overturned by the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC) which came into force on April 13.
In a landmark judgment on Friday, the apex court had struck down as unconstitutional the NJAC Act that was brought in to replace the over two-decade-old collegium system of judges appointing judges in the higher judiciary.
The judgment, that will enable the collegium system to continue, also declared as unconstitutional the 99th amendment to the Constitution to bring in the NJAC Act.
As per the data collated by the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry, as on October 1, there were 406 vacancies in the high courts. The approved strength of the 24 high courts is 1,017 and they are at present functioning with 611 judges.
The data states that the High Courts of Bombay, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Punjab and Haryana, Karnataka, Patna, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Gauhati have acting chief justices.
While the new law scrapped the collegium system, the Chief Justice of India had refused to take part in a meeting with the Prime Minister of the selection committee of the panel under the NJAC law, thus leaving the new system in a limbo.
Therefore, no judge could be elevated as chief justice of a high court, transferred to another high court or elevated to the Supreme Court as there was no system in place for the purpose.