Less than 45% of HC Judges are from the Subordinate Judiciary [2017-21]
43.6% of HC judges have been appointed from the subordinate judiciary and the remaining 56.4% were appointed directly from the Bar.
The collegium may recommend two categories of judges for appointments to High Courts: advocates directly elevated from the bar and judicial officers promoted from the subordinate courts. Most States have policies for caste-based reservation in the subordinate judiciary. However, even though the Collegium considers diversity as a factor while making recommendations, no reservations policy applies to High Court and Supreme Court appointments.
At the Chief Justices’ Conference in 2009, it was noticed that only one-third of all sitting High Court judges were promoted from the subordinate courts. Several explanations are proposed for this outcome. Bar Associations have argued that their counterparts from the bar have experience in dealing with more types of cases. Some academics have emphasised that judicial officers from subordinate courts are perceived to be less competent to handle public law cases in the High Courts.
At the 2009 Conference, the Chief Justices of all High Courts resolved to work towards 50% representation of subordinate judges in High Court appointments at the 2009 conference. As the collegium started publishing its resolutions containing recommendations in 2017, we gathered data on the professional background of HC judges from these resolutions. An analysis of recommendations for elevation to High Courts over the last five years [2017-2021] suggests that the 2009 Conference resolution is beginning to take effect.
In 2009 one-third of judges appointed to the High Court were subordinate court judges. From 2017-2021, 43.6% of HC judges have been appointed from the subordinate judiciary and the remaining 56.4% were appointed directly from the bar. While this fell to a low of 24% in 2019, subordinate judges made up 66% of the recommended judges in 2020.
However, none of the sitting Chief Justices of any High Courts are from the subordinate judiciary.
While the subordinate judiciary is soon likely to occupy 50% of the HC, they may still be far from making it to the Supreme Court.
With inputs from Gahena Gambani.