Day 15 Arguments: 31 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 Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Uttarak-hand and Gujarat.

 

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.

 

On 30 July, the court took note of the progress made by the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and North-Eastern states.

 

Today’s hearing

Today’s hearing began with Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal presenting a status update on the states of Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

 

Chief Justice Gogoi dictated orders with respect to the submissions made by the Registrar General of the Tripura High Court with respect to judicial vacancies in all cadre, including that of Civil Judge. He directed the Registrar General to issue a notification to limited departments with respect to the vacancies of civil judge.

 

Guarav Agarwal stated that there 10 Senior Civil Judge vacancies in Tripura for which the recruitment process is underway. He requested the court to direct that the 10 vacancies be filled by September so that promotions can be made.

 

For the state of Uttarakhand, Guarav Agarwal stated that 189 people appeared for a main examination held on 20 and 21 July to be recruited through the direct quota. He added that only one candidate, who had been in service for 12 years, was eligible for the limited competitive examinations for the post of Civil Judge. He added that with respect to issuing directions for appointments to the post of Civil Judge and Senior Civil Judge, it must be noted that appointments in the higher cadre will impact the strength of the lower cadre. Therefore, the court could consider issuing an order that directs that vacancies in the feeder (lower) cadre are filled before promotions to the higher cadre are made.

 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta then appeared before the court. However, Chief Justice Gogoi stated that the court would address the issue of funding after addressing the issue of vacancies and infra-structure.

 

Amicus Curiae KV Vishwanathan made submissions for the states of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala. With respect to the state of Gujarat, he stated that recommendations for 32 promotional posts of District Judge are yet to be made. Chief Justice Gogoi reprimanded the Registrar General and inquired how long it would take to assess the suitability of 99 candidates for appointment to 32 posts. He directed that this process be completed by the end of August and that appointments be made by the end of September. Further, he noted that with respect to direct recruitment, 70 District Judge posts were vacant. He expressed dissatisfaction that 70 courts were therefore not functioning. He also directed that selections to the posts of DR & LCE (???) be

completed by the end of November and that appointments be made within 30 days of receiving the recommendations.

 

KV Vishwanathan informed the court that 95 candidates are eligible for 65 Senior Division Civil Judge vacancies by promotions. The Registrar General of Gujarat High Court assured that court that the process for such appointment is underway and that recommendations will be made by the end of September.

 

KV Vishwanathan submitted that there were 150 vacancies in the Junior Civil Judge cadre. He stated that a selection process had been initiated for 124 of these vacancies and a final examination had been held on 7 July for 307 candidates appeared. He requested the court to allow Gujarat High Court more time to complete this round of evaluation before initiating a second lot of selection. He also informed the court that the remaining 26 vacancies arose due to the promotion of officers to higher cadres in March and April.

 

Justice Deepak Gupta stated that the two processes must run simultaneously, as the Gujarat High Court is not anticipating its future vacancies. He therefore directed the immediate initiation of a se-lection process for the remaining 26 vacancies.

 

Chief Justice Gogoi inquired when the evaluation of the 307 candidates appearing for the 124 vacan-cies in the Junior Civil Judge cadre would be completed. The Registrar General stated that the process would be completed by the end of November. Chief Justice Gogoi asked whether the Gujarat High Court would take 5 months to publish the results. The Registrar General then submitted that the Gu-jarat High Court would publish the results of the written examination by the end of September, hold interviews by 15 October and make recommendations by the end of October. Chief Justice Gogoi extended the time for making recommendations until mid-November.

 

KV Vishwanathan submitted that by the affidavit dated 24 July 2019, 24 ad hoc Senior Civil Judge posts and 14 ad hoc Junior Civil Judge posts sanctioned by the state government were vacant. He submitted that the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court has agreed to regularise these posts so that necessary actions can be taken to fill them.

 

Chief Justice Gogoi inquired whether the officers posted in these ad hoc seats were regular officers. KV Vishwanathan affirmed that the officers posted in these ad hoc seats were regular officers. He further requested the court to issue a direction that the regularisation of these posts be completed in a timely manner.

 

KV Vishwanathan also submitted that the labour judiciary is separate in Gujarat and that the Gujarat High Court had undertaken the task of framing rules for recruiting labour judiciary in 2013. 19 Senior Division and (21/31) junior division sanctioned posts are vacant. However, the High Court has not framed any rules yet. He therefore requested the court to direct the High Court to draft rules immedi-ately so that recruitments can be made.

 

Chief Justice Gogoi stated that posts must be first be made a part of the cadre and then recruitments can be made, however the Gujarat High Court had done nothing.

 

KV Vishwanathan then made submissions for the state of Himachal Pradesh on the basis of its affi-davit dated 25 July. He stated that 50 of 54 vacancies are being filled, and the results for the remaining 3 vacancies are to be declared within the next 3 days, with appointments made within a reasonable time. The additional post of District and Sessions Judge, created in June, is also planned to be filled in a timely manner.

 

(Court reporting by Disha Chaudhry)