Case Description

The Supreme Court is monitoring steps taken by High Courts and State Governments to fill vacant judicial posts in the District and Subordinate Courts.


The Bench appointed four amici curiae to assist the Court in monitoring States:

  • Shyam Divan, responsible for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North Eastern States
  • KV Vishwanathan, responsible for Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala
  • Vijay Hansaria, responsible for Madhya Pradesh and the High Courts of Madras, Odisha, Patna and Punjab and Haryana
  • Gaurav Agrawal, responsible for Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand


On 22 October 2018, a two-judge Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul took suo moto cognisance of the high number of judicial vacancies in the District (higher) and Subordinate Courts (hereafter lower courts). Note that suo moto means “on its own motion”. In other words, the Court took cognisance of the matter even though no petitioner has filed a civil petition praying for the Court to reduce judicial vacancies in the lower courts.


The Bench CJI Gogoi stated, “the existence of vacancies to the extent indicated is wholly unacceptable”. The high number of judicial vacancies is a major factor contributing to the very high number of pending cases before the courts.


On 22 October 2018, the Court ordered all High Courts and State governments to submit information pertaining to how they are filling judicial vacancies under their jurisdiction before 1 November 2018, invoking Article 142. The Court directed the High Courts and State governments to report on whether they will fill judicial vacancies in a timely fashion, as defined by Malik Mazhar Sultan, 2006. On page 5 of Malik Mazhar Sultan, 3 April 2006, the Supreme Court ordered all States to compose a fixed time schedule for filling judicial vacancies in their State and to submit this schedule to the Court.


In the 22 October 2018 order, the Bench took note of the total number of judicial vacancies. It noted that according to the information submitted by Registries of the High Courts, there are 22,036 judicial posts in the District and Subordinate Courts:

  • 23% of these judicial posts are vacant, i.e. 5133 judicial posts
  • Recruitment processes are underway for 4180 posts
  • For 1324 vacant posts, there is no recruitment process underway


The Bench has tagged Malik Mazhir Sultan to this case. The next hearing is on 1 November, 2018. The Bench will review the submissions by the High Courts and the State governments.


1) Are High Courts and State Governments filling judicial vacancies in their District and Subordinate Courts in a timely manner, according to the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Malik Mazhar Sultan?