Judicial Vacancies in India

Supreme Court Data Portal

As per Article 124 of the Constitution, there shall be a Supreme Court of India, headed by the Chief Justice of India. As per this same article, the President of India may make appointments to the Supreme Court only after “consulting” with the Chief Justice of India. In practice, the Chief Justice makes these recommendations after consulting with the 4 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. Together these 5 judges are referred to as the Collegium of the Supreme Court.

There are three categories of individuals that can be considered for appointment – sitting High Court judges with at least 5 years of experience as a judge, advocates who have been with a High Court for 10 years and distinguished jurists. Historically, only sitting High Courts have been appointed to the Supreme Court. In the last decade though, the Collegium has been recommending practicing Senior Advocates for appointment to the Supreme Court of India.

On appointment to the Supreme Court, a judge can hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years, regardless of when he or she was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. Article 124 also prescribes the overall sanctioned strength of the Supreme Court at 31 judges.

This data portal captures the following variables for each sitting Supreme Court judge: name, gender, date of retirement as well as expected tenure, method of appointment (whether from the bar or the bench), the parent High Court and finally the number of vacancies on the Court.

The data on the portal has been derived from the statistics that are periodically released by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice.

High Court Data Portal

As per Article 214 of the Constitution there should be a High Court in every State. While most States in India have their own High Court, there are some States that share the same High Court. Under Article 231, Parliament may establish a common High Court for two or more States and a Union Territory. Thus, some states like Punjab and Haryana share the same High Court. Similarly, the Bombay High Court exercises jurisdictions over Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and the Gauhati High Court exercises jurisdiction over Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

As per Article 217 of the Constitution, a judge of the High Court is to be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of the High Court. In case of appointment to the post of the Chief Justice of the High Court, only the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of India are required to be consulted. Further, as per Article 217, only persons who have held judicial office for 10 years or advocates who have been with a High Court for 10 years can be appointed as a judge of the High Court. In practice, a majority of High Court judges are drawn from the pool of advocates practicing before a High Court while a smaller number are promoted from the post of a District Judge.

There are two classes of judges at the High Court – additional and permanent judges. A permanent judge can hold office until the age of 62 years. Under Article 224(1), the President may, in case of reason of any temporary increase in business of the High Court, appoint persons as additional judges of the High Court for a period not exceeding two years. In practice, most permanent judges are first appointed as additional judges.

There has consistently been a shortage of judges across all High Courts in India.

This data portal captures the following data for all High Courts across the country: the number of vacancies across all High Courts against the sanctioned strength for permanent judges and additional judges. In addition, the portal also captures the date of appointment of the judge, the expected tenure of the judge based on the date of retirement of the judge, whether the judge was previously from the bar or bench.

The data on the portal has been derived from the statistics that are periodically released by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice on its website.

The District Judiciary Data Portal

The lower judiciary consists primarily of two classes of judges – the District Judges and the judiciary below the rank of District Judges, whose nomenclature varies across states. They are most commonly referred to as Subordinate Judges, Munsiffs and Civil Judges of the Senior and Junior Division.

As per Article 233 of the Constitution, the appointment of persons as District Judges shall be made by the Governor of the State in consultation with the relevant High Court. The recruitment to the position of a District Judge can happen either through promotion or via recruitment of advocates from the bar who have been practising for not less than seven years through a written examination and interview process.

Below the rank of District Judge, there are usually two tiers of judges, across all states, whose posts are created not by the Constitution but by ordinary laws that are enacted by Parliament or the State Legislature. However Article 235 of the Constitution requires that all such judges be appointed by the Governor of a State in consultation with the relevant High Court and State Public Service Commission.

What are the different categories of civil courts?
All civil courts are created by individual state legislation. Most such legislations create two classes of courts below the post of a District Judge. For example, the Himachal Pradesh Courts Act, 1976 governs the classes of courts at Himachal Pradesh. It notes that there are three classes of civil courts - the courts of the District Judge, Senior Civil Judge and a Civil Judge. This is the pattern followed in all states, although the nomenclature may differ significantly across the board. For example, The Madhya Pradesh Civil Courts Act, 1958 uses the nomenclature, Civil Judge, Class I and Civil Judge, Class II. Similarly, the two corresponding classes of courts in Jammu and Kashmir are called Subordinate Judge and Munsiff.

Nomenclature of judges manning civil courts may also vary within a State because some States have different legislation enacted for their capital cities. For example, while the state of Tamil Nadu is governed by the Tamil Nadu Civil Courts Act, 1873 the city of Chennai (erstwhile Madras) is governed by the Madras City Civil Courts Act, 1892. Similarly, while the state of Gujarat is governed by the Gujarat Civil Courts Act, 2005, Ahmedabad is separately governed by the Ahmedabad City Courts Act, 1961.

Although the state legislation create different categories of courts, the qualification criteria for the judges manning these courts is laid down in separate rules that are notified by the Governor in consultation with High Courts.

What are the different categories of criminal courts?
While nomenclature of designations on the civil side across states might differ, the designation of judges on the criminal side across these courts, continues to remain the same because all designations on the criminal side are determined by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 [CrPC].

The highest rung of the criminal courts at the District level is that of a Sessions Judge, who can even sentence people to death for certain crimes. Subordinate to the Sessions Judge is the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), who is created by Section 12 of the same code. These judges may pass any sentence except a sentence of death or imprisonment for life or for a term exceeding seven years. Subordinate to the CJM is the Judicial Magistrate, First Class and Judicial Magistrate, Second Class. A Judicial Magistrate, First Class may pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding Rs. 10,000, while a court ofJudicial Magistrate of the Second Class may pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or of fine not exceeding Rs. 5,000. In most states, the common practice is to have courts of only two classes of judges namely courts of the Chief Judicial Magistrates and Judicial Magistrates, First Class. Only the courts in the states of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha and Tripura have judges with the designation of Judicial Magistrates, Second Class.

The nomenclature in cities slightly varies. The aforementioned designations usually change to Metropolitan Magistrate and Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. There are only two and not three corollary designations because under Section 3(b) and 3(c) of the CrPC, Magistrates of both the First and Second Class are called Metropolitan Magistrates in cities.

Why do some judges have two designations and how are they different from ‘ranks’ of judges?
Most judges at the district level hear both civil and criminal cases and hence have dual designations, signifying the type of cases they can hear. Therefore, on this portal, a lot of judges can be seen to have double designations such as – ‘Civil Judge, Senior Division and Chief Judicial Magistrate’ or ‘District and Sessions Judge’. Some common double designations that appear are those of District and Sessions Judge; Civil Judge, Senior Division and Chief Judicial Magistrate and finally, Civil Judge, Junior Division and Judicial Magistrate, First Class.

For the purpose of this portal, the designation of the judge as available on the eCourts website is recorded under the ‘designation’ column. In some cases, judges in one district also held another position in a different district. These judges have been marked with an asterisk on the table with a footnote providing information on their concurrently held position.

Since there were a very high number of unique designations within a state, which multiply across the states, unique designations have also been collated under the headings of ‘rank’ for the purposes of aggregate calculations and comparison between states. Thus, the data in the ‘rank’ column has been derived by us for each judge based on the relevant law and is not raw data from the court’s website.

For example, all Assistant District and Sessions Judge, have been classified as District and Sessions Judges. Similarly, all the District and Assistant Sessions Judges has also been classified as a District and Sessions Judge. In most cases, the ranking is simple since there is parity between the designations that judges hold on the civil and criminal side. For example, judges that hold the position of the senior-most judge at the civil side i.e. District Judge also hold the position of the senior-most judge at the criminal side i.e. Sessions Judge. In some cases, judges with double designations hold different powers in the civil and criminal side. For example, a judge might be a Judicial Magistrate, First Class on the criminal side and a Civil Judge, Senior Division on the civil side. In such cases we have opted for the designation used for the judge when presiding over the superior court. Therefore, while the designation of such a just will be that of a Civil Judge, Senior Division and Judicial Magistrate, First Class, the rank will be that of a Civil Judge, Senior Division.

Who are the judges manning special courts and why are some judges ‘unclassified’?
Some laws, such as the Narcotics and Drugs Prevention Act, 1985 appoint Judges to man Special Courts that hear the cases under the act. The qualification for different category of Special Courts depends on the law that creates these courts. For example, under the NDPS Act, only a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge can be appointed to the Special Court under this law. Therefore, in this portal, while the ‘designation’ of the judge is noted as a Judge, NDPS the ‘rank’ of the judge’ is noted as a Sessions Judge. There will be other such instances on the portal where judges manning Special Courts have been referred to as Special Judge. As far as possible we have tried to derive their rank for the purposes of aggregate calculation and state-wise comparisons. However, some laws like the Family Courts Act, 1984 allow for the appointment of a family court judge if they have held judicial office for at least seven years or have been an advocate of the High Court for at least seven years. In such cases, the rank of the Judge cannot be slotted between the three classes of designations. Therefore, a special rank has been created as Judge, Family Court. Special ranks have also been created for members of Lok Adalats, Secretaries of the District Legal Service Authority, Judges Labour Court and Judges of Fast Track Courts.

In some cases, the data that has been extracted from the eCourt websites does not provide sufficient details about the designation of a judge. For example, the designation of a judge, as extracted, is of a ‘Presiding Officer’. The kind of court this judge is a presiding officer for cannot be determined with this limited information. Therefore, the rank assigned to this judge is ‘unclassified’.

From where did we get this data and from what time period is it?
We have obtained the data for the District Judiciary Data Portal from two sources. First, the number of sanctioned strength and actual strength of the judges, at the state level across all the state judiciary , is derived from the Supreme Court Annual Report. This report does not provide a district wise or cadre-wise breakup of the actual and sanctioned strength per district, but the overall sanctioned vis-à-vis actual strength across all the district courts in the state. Our second source of data, were the individual websites of different eCourts. We commissioned a computer programming expert to scrape information from the individual district eCourts websites. This exercise was conducted twice - October 2017 and July 2019.

While conducting the exercise in 2017, due to unforeseen difficulties, the data for Orissa does not appear in the same format as other states. Due to non-availability of data Arunachal Pradesh and Lakshadweep have been excluded from our analysis.

Similarly, while conducting the exercise in July 2019 data of Arunachal Pradesh was excluded due to non-availability of data. Additionally, in a few places the designation of judges has been mentioned as ‘unavailable’ due to non-availability of data in this regard. However, since these are functional judges they have been taken into account and their ranks have been assigned as ‘unclassified’.

The shape files of the maps used were obtained from Data{Meet}.For the 2017 data, the boundaries have been defined as per the 2011 census. The boundaries for the 2019 data, have been defined by maps created by the open source community at Data{Meet}. These maps incorporate the new administrative districts that have been created since 2011. Since all the districts identified as administrative districts might not have a court or an eCourt website, the number of districts for which the information is available on the portal is lessor.

567 districts have been studied in 2017 and 621 districts have been studied in 2019.

The portal was conceptualised by Vaidehi Misra and Prashant Reddy T. who work for the JALDI project at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. The data used for this portal was scraped by Sandeep Reddy in October 2017 and Satishwar Kedas in July 2019. The task of cleaning, classifying and inputting the data was supervised by Vaidehi Misra and Megha Katheria, Associate Fellow. They would like to thank Kriti Sharma, who as an Associate Fellow assisted in the data cleaning and classification process. They are also grateful to the following interns for their help with cleaning and classifying the data: Aprameya Manthena, Akshat Pandit, Shagun Bhargava, Ansh Kumar, Akshay Jain, Mitsu Sahay, Mukesh Seju, Sughosh Joshi and Vasavi Janak Khatri.

For any queries regarding the database, please contact: Vaidehi Misra at jaldi@vidhilegalpolicy.in

Occupied Posts
Profile of Supreme Court Judges
Details of Supreme Court Judges
S.No Name of Hon. Judge Gender Appointment date Retirement date Expected tenure Parent High Court

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