Day 12 Arguments

Judicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts

Day 12 Argument: 23 April 2019

A three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court is monitoring steps taken by High Courts and State Governments to fill vacant judicial posts in the District and Subordinate Courts. CJI Ranjan Gogoi took suo moto cognizance of the issue and decided to hear the matter in stages dealing with the issue State-wise, appointing four persons as Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in the case.

On the previous date of hearing, the Bench heard amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria on the status of funding for judicial infrastructure by the Central and State Governments. Taking note of both the short term and long term issues that needed to be dealt with the in the case, the Court had issued the following directions to the Central and State Governments:

  1. the Central Government to release funds within two months to the extent Utilization Certificates have been sent by the respective State Governments and submit compliance report to this Court;
  2. the State Government(s) to submit pending utilisation certificate(s) to the Central Government within four weeks and furnish information in the format annexed with the present order within a period of six weeks to this Court;
  3. the Central Government may disburse the amounts and/or give response within two months of furnishing pending utilization certificates by the State Government and submit compliance report to this Court;

In today’s hearing, the Court was looking into the response filed by the Central Government with respect to the steps taken since the directions were issued on the last date. Mr. Vijay Hansaria, Amicus Curiae, first addressed the Court submitting a note prepared by him that also incorporated the response of the Central Government. Dealing first with the short term measures, with respect to the second direction of the Court in its order dated February 28th, Mr. Hansaria informed the Court that the States of Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura had not supplied the Central Government with utilisation certificates. He therefore sought directions from the Court to these 3 States to provide the Central Government with the certificates.

With respect to the directions issued to the Central Government, Justice Gogoi inquired from Mr. Hansaria whether the same had been complied with. Mr. Hansaria responded that the picture was unclear, at which point the Bench questioned the counsel appearing for the Central Government. The counsel for the Central Government drew the Court’s attention to the affidavit of the Government (the affidavit has not been formally filed with the Supreme Court’s Registry). She informed the Court that a proposal has been submitted for approval by the appropriate authority for the release of funds, subject to the condition that no certificate of utilisation is pending. The counsel attempted to take the Court through a chart detailing the funds that have been released by the Central Government since 1993, however Justice Gogoi interrupted stating that the Court was concerned with whether direction No. I stated above had been complied with.

Despite repeated questions from the Bench about whether steps had been taken by the Central Government to comply with the directions of the Court, where the States had supplied certificates of utilization, the counsel could not offer the Court with a satisfactory response. She further requested one week’s time to furnish the necessary details at which point Justice Gogoi expressed his displeasure with the manner in which directions of the Court were not been complied with, in not just this case alone. He further demanded a response, noting that the Court could initiate contempt proceedings if required. Upon being asked by the Chief Justice whether in his opinion as Amicus, the directions issued by the Court had been complied with by the Central Government. Mr. Hansaria responded saying that not only was there a lack of compliance, but the funds being released by the government to the States for judicial infrastructure had decreased over the past years without any justification. He informed the court that proposals for Rs. 15000 crores had been sent by the state governments regarding investments in infrastructure for the judiciary and these were yet to be approved by the Central Government.

After perusing the affidavit of the Central Government, Justice Gogoi remarked that none of the questions raised by the Court in its last order had been answered and that the affidavit did not paint a clear picture. He further observed that the Central Government had treated the judicial arm of the State unfairly by not taking the necessary steps to ensure the availability of adequate infrastructure. He accordingly directed the Secretary of the Ministry of Law & Justice to correspond with Amicus Mr. Hansaria and provide the necessary information. Further, the 3 States of Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura were directed to supply the Central Government with the utilisation certificates pending till date.

The case will be taken up for hearing after 2 weeks.

(Court reporting by Disha Chaudhry)