The bench strength of the Telangana High Court, which has over 2.3 lakh pending cases, has been increased from 24 to 42 judges. The proposal to raise the bench strength by hiring new judges had been lying dormant with the Union government for two whole years and was revived by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana. Justice Ramana, soon after taking over as the CJI on April 24, reviewed all pending proposals and took them up along with a host of issues concerning the judiciary with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Both leaders agreed to get the matters examined expeditiously, including the proposal to raise the bench strength of the High Court. The increase in sanctioned bench strength of the Telangana High Court is with immediate effect and out of 42, 32 will be Permanent Judges and 10 will be Additional Judges, sources said. As per the proposal, which was pending approval of the Union government since February 2019, out of 42, 28 judges would be from the Bar quota and the remaining 14 judicial officers would be promoted under the service category, sources said.
The Telangana HC currently has a sanctioned strength of 24 judges but only has 14 judges working, including Chief Justice Hima Kohli. With the CJI giving his requisite final approval to the proposed hike on June 8, the path is cleared for issuing a notification to hire additional judges to the posts. Even with the new appointments, nearly 28 posts will still remain vacant in the Telangana High Court, reported the Times of India.
Keeping the huge pendency of cases in Telangana High Court in mind, the proposal, duly endorsed by the Chief Minister and the Governor, to raise the sanctioned bench strength was sent to the Union Law Ministry as early as February 13, 2019, and was lying dormant, sources said, adding that the Union government examined it in detail and kept it in abeyance.
Later, even on re-examination of the proposal, the Union government on November 15, 2019, conveyed to the then Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court that the preference is given to filling up vacancies first. Thereafter the matter remained dormant till Justice Ramana assumed charge as the CJI, reported PTI.
Justice Ramana, in his letter to the Law Minister on May 27, specifically raised the long-pending proposal for hike in sanctioned bench strength from 24 to 42 of Telangana High Court, saying even after all vacancies are filled, it is highly inadequate to address the pendency. The pendency has gone up alarmingly to 2,37,000 cases, the CJI had written and had apprised that there was necessary infrastructure in place to accommodate 42 judges in the High Court of Telangana. The Law Ministry concurred with the proposal to enhance the sanctioned bench strength from 24 to 42 and conveyed the same to the CJI, they said.
(With Inputs from PTI)