On 22nd October 2018, a two-judge Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul took suo motu cognisance of the high number of judicial vacancies in various States. In other words, the Bench took cognisance of the matter even though no petitioner has filed a civil petition requesting the Court to reduce judicial vacancies in the lower courts.
In the previous hearing, the Court heard West Bengal and Delhi present on how they are addressing the lack of judicial infrastructure. Neither government has adequate court rooms and/or housing for judges and staff. Furthermore, Delhi will not have enough staff were all its judicial vacancies to be filled.
In today's hearing, the Court heard the Secretaries the Chief Secretary and the Finance Secretary from West Bengal. The Court also heard Amicus Curiae KV Vishwanathan present submissions on behalf of the States of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala.
Both the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary of West Bengal are present in Court. They have submitted their respective affidavits.
The Chief Secretary's affidavit states that the deadline for the construction of all new court halls is 2021. Further, the affidavits states that a total of 45 infrastructural projects are to be constructed, only one of which is complete.
CJI Gogoi states that he is not satisfied with the deadline for completion of court halls. Further, CJI states that the affidavit does not specify the requested details. Firstly, the affidavit does not state which projects will be court halls and which projects will be residencies. Secondly, it does not state the number of projects which have gained administrative approval.
CJI Gogoi asked the Chief Secretary to explain the inadequacies in the affidavit. The Chief Secretary responded by saying that 23 projects have gained administrative approval, yet that he cannot provide the Court with the break-up of court halls and residencies.
At this point in time, Amicus Curiae Shyam Divan requested the Court to grant the State of West Bengal more time to submit a complete affidavit. Mr. Divan requested the Court to make submission after the other States, so that West Bengal can work out the details of vacancies, deadlines and budgetary allocations.
CJI Gogoi took the time to express his displeasure with the inaction on behalf of the Calcutta high Court. CJI Gogoi noted that the West Bengal submitted on record that the judiciary requires 422 court halls and 630 residential units, yet the High Court appears to have not taken any steps to address the issue.
He granted West Bengal time to come back with a 'concrete plan' after all the other States had presented.
Amicus Curiae KV Vishwanathan presented submissions on behalf of the State of Gujarat. He began summarizing the steps Gujarat has taken to fill vacancies. Regarding the direct recruitment of district judges, he submitted the following:
With regards to the Civil Judge Senior Division, KK Vishwanathan submitted the following on behalf of the State of Gujarat:
With regards to Civil Judges, he submitted the following:
CJI Gogoi asked, 'why have you only advertised for 75 posts?' The Registrar General of Gujarat responded by saying that at the time of the advertisement there were only 75 vacancies. He stated that the other 64 vacancies were converted to regular Civil Judge posts after the advertisement.
At this point time, CJI Gogoi ordered Gujarat to process the recruitment of the aforesaid vacancies by the first week of January and file a report of the same with the Court.
Next, KV Vishwanathan made submissions with regards to infrastructure. He submitted that 32 judicial districts in Gujarat and the metropolitan magistrate courts in Ahmedabad presently lacking in infrastructure but the situation will be rectified in February when the court building is complete.
KV Vishwanathan highlighted for the Court the year plan for making infrastructure available. CJI Gogoi was satisfied with Gujarat's infrastructure plan.
Next, CJI Gogoi asked KV Vishwanathan to address the status of manpower. KV Vishwanathan submitted that the High Court is responsible for recruiting support staff. He stated that there is a shortage of stenographers, but that the High Court plans to fill the posts within 6 months. In the meantime, the High Court is outsourcing the posts, he submitted. Further, he submitted that the Registrar General is working to fill Labour and Industrial Court staff positions.
CJI Gogoi stated that he would not issue any further directions. He restated that the State must submit a report describing the process it will use to fill judicial vacancies by the first week of January.
The Registrar General and an official from the Public Service Commission were present on behalf of the State of Himachal Pradesh. KV Vishwanathan is the Amicus Curiae reporting to the Court on the status of judicial vacancies in Himachal Pradesh.
The affidavit filed by the Registrar General states that for the direct recruitment of district judges, the State currently lacks 3 judges in the SC/ST/OBC category (1 for each category). These are the only vacancies in the direct recruitment of district judges category.
Next, Mr. KV Vishwanathan submitted that there are currently no vacancies in the Civil Judges Senior Division category. In the Junior Division, he submitted that there are currently 7 vacancies, for which appointments will be made within a month as the requisitions have already been sent.
CJI Gogoi stated that the status of vacancies and infrastructure 'appear to be satisfactory in the State of Himachal Pradesh'. He stated that no further orders are required.
For the State of Jammu and Kashmir, both the Registrar General and the Departmental Secretary were present in Court. KV Vishwanathan submitted on their behalf that there are currently 14 vacancies in total for both the Higher Judicial Services and the District Courts. He submitted that 4 posts will be filled by 31st January 2019. Further, he submitted that advertisement for 7 vacancies were advertised on 7th November 2018.
CJI Gogoi asked why the State has yet to take steps to fill the other 3 vacancies. The Registrar General submitted that the posts were created in September. He added that steps will be taken shortly to initiate recruitment.
Regarding Civil Judges, KK Vishwanathan submitted the following:
On the question of infrastructure, the affidavit of the Registrar General sets out a meeting between the Chief Justice and Chief Secretary, in which they noted that there is a requirement for 88 court halls and 92 residential units. The affidavit states that 31 court halls and 35 residencies are under construction.
On the question of manpower, KV Vishwanathan submitted that there are currently 418 vacancies across various grades. He stated that the vacancies will be filed within 3 months-time.
CJI Gogoi was satisfied and issued no further directions.
CJI Gogoi stated that the High Court ought to expedite the process for recruitment.
With regards to infrastructure, KV Vishwanathan submitted that the State requires 603 court halls, 41 of which are under construction. He submitted that 540 residences are available and 84 are under construction. KV Vishwanathan submitted that once the construction is complete there will be adequate infrastructure for the newly appointed judges to function.
CJI Gogoi stated that no further orders are required.
The Court broke for lunch.
KK Vishwanathan briefly presented submissions on behalf of the States of Karnataka and Kerala. As far as judicial vacancies in the State Kerala were concerened, Mr. Vishwanathan submitted that the position was satisfactory. In the State of Karnataka on the other hand, the procedure for filling up of vacancies had been slow. There were 101 vacant posts of Civil Judge Junior Division for whicg 4,000 applications had been recieved but only 33 candidates had been selected. Even for the 30 vacancies in the cadre of District Judges, only 4 candiadtes had been appointed. However, on the infrastructural front CJI Ranjan Gogoi said the state of the affairs in the two states was poor and there was a severe lack of action on part of the State government to provide adequate facilities for trail Courts.
The State of West Bengal had earlier been granted time to file a more adequte repsonse to the question raised by the affidabit. The Chief Secreatary and Finanace Secretary submitted a summary response which will be considered by the Court on Thursday, 6th December, 2018.
The Court will consider the state of judicial vacancies in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Odisha, Patna, Punjab, and Haryana in January, 2019.
The Court listed the matter for tomorrow, 6th December. It will once again hear the Chief Secretary of West Bengal.