Day 14 Arguments: 30 July 2019

Today, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose heard matters regarding the filling up of judicial vacancies in the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and North-Eastern states.

 

Background

In October 2018, the court took suo moto cognisance of the high number of judicial vacancies in District and Subordinate courts. It noted that of the 22,036 judicial posts in the lower courts of the country, 5,133 posts are vacant. Therefore the Supreme Court is monitoring the progress made by the 24 High Courts in the country to expeditiously fill up judicial vacancies, as per the timeline fixed in the 2006 Malik Mazhar Sultan case.

 

The court has appointed four amici curiae to assist in monitoring the states.

- Shyam Divan for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North Eastern States

- KV Vishwanathan for Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala

- Vijay Hansaria for Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Patna and Punjab & Haryana

- Gaurav Agrawal for Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand

 

The bench is summoning government officials and Registrar Generals of the High Court to note the progress of processes undertaken to fill judicial vacancies. It is collecting information on the total strength of each cadre, the vacant posts in each cadre, the filled up posts in each cadre, the number of posts for which selection is ongoing and the status of the selection process and the number of posts for which selection process is yet to be initiated.

 

Today’s hearing

In today’s hearing, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi stated that High Courts must achieve the target of zero vacancy in subordinate judiciary, preferably by the end of 2019. He added that filling up vacant judicial posts is a top priority since over 2.76 crore cases are pending in India.

 

The bench stated that nothing can be more important than filling up the huge judicial vacancy in courts across the country. It added that if required, it will deal with this case the whole day. It began with examining the filling up of vacancies in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and North-Eastern states.

 

Amicus Curiae Shyam Divan submitted before the court that the states had broadly complied with the Supreme Court’s order in Malik Mazhar Sultan for the on-time appointment of judicial officers to vacant posts. He added that where there were delays in appointments, reasons had been recorded by the states and High Courts in the reports submitted to the court.

 

The court was informed that in Maharashtra, 43 District Judge posts are vacant. However, the Bom-bay High Court is processing 76 appointments, after considering all the posts likely to fall vacant before 31 March 2020. 20 Senior Civil Judge posts and 100 Junior Civil Judge posts are also vacant.

 

In Uttar Pradesh, 114 District Judge posts and 123 Civil Judge posts are vacant. With respect to filling up vacant Additional District Judge posts, Amicus Curiae Shyam Divan stated that the process to appoint 329 officers to these posts had been finalised and sent to the Uttar Pradesh government for notification. The court asked the Uttar Pradesh government when it was going to appoint the officers and how much time it would need. The state government requested 3 months’ time to complete police verification. However, the Supreme Court directed that the appointments be made within 15 days. The bench was also surprised that Uttar Pradesh had a higher sanctioned strength of Additional Dis-trict Judge than Senior and Junior Civil Judge whereas in Maharashtra, the sanctioned strength of the lower cadre exceeded the strength of the Additional District Judge cadre.

 

In West Bengal, there are 90 vacant posts in the Higher Judicial Services cadre. The court also found that in Chattisgarh, 75 District Judge and Additional Judge posts and 108 Civil Judge posts were vacant. However, in an examination held to fill vacancies in 22 posts, not a single applicant to the exam was found eligible. The bench noted that it was not a good scenario that no candidate from the Bar had qualified for the 22 posts. Similarly, the bench found that only 9 of the 14,000 applicants for post of Junior Civil Judge in Haryana were qualified.

 

Only the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar was able to report zero vacancy before the court today.

 

In the next hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, the court will deal with judicial vacancies in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala.