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Although pendency hasn’t really suffered, pragmatism wins the day: Trickle of 5 new SC judges gets approved after a year

With the last batch of Supreme Court elevations having been made only in May 2016 with four new judges (who had been recommended in December 2015), the collegium’s latest recommendations of five new Supreme Court judges were cleared by the president yesterday.

Mint reported (Desktop version):

Government appoints 5 new judges to Supreme Court

By Apurva Vishwanath

New Delhi: Five new judges were appointed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dipak Gupta, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, S Abdul Nazeer and Navin Sinha —chief justices of the high courts of Madras, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Karnataka and Rajasthan, respectively—will be sworn in on Friday. Their names had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium in January.

Although the Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar said earlier in February that the collegium would finalise by month-end the new memorandum of procedure (MOP), by which it would select judges, this is not likely to be a signal of the end of squabbles between Supreme Court and government after the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC): it is much more likely simply a pragmatic recognition that the Supreme Court has been operating at a record-low capacity, with a vacancy of eight.

The new appointments take the number up to 28, which is still three fewer than its fully-sanctioned strength.

Pendency project

Despite the shortage, the apex court’s pending cases as at January 2017 now stand at 62,301, which is just marginally higher than the March 2015 kkfigure of 61,300 (for some reason the Supreme Court’s pendency statistics do not appear to have been updated between March 2015 and December 2016).

That is coincidentally a very similar level as in May 2012, when 61,876 cases were pending before the summer holidays (by June 2012, the pendency had increased to nearly 64,000 - see chart below).

With pendency having ballooned from April 2011 to 2012 by nearly 10,000, the Supreme Court appears to have been able to at least put a lid on pendency growth since then, even if it hasn’t cured the problem.

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