Day 8 Arguments

Judicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts

Day 8 Arguments: 22 January 2019

A three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India is monitoring the steps taken by the High Courts and State Governments to fill all vacant judicial posts in the District and Subordinate Courts.

In today’s hearing, the Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna heard the submissions made on behalf of the States on Karanataka and Kerala. The submissions are with regards to filling vacant posts and making available appropriate judicial infrastructure respectively. Note that the Court is being assisted by Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan, Amicus Curiae for these States and on a previous date of hearing, had raised concerns and expressed its dissatisfaction with the state of affairs and the submissions made by the Registrar Generals and Government functionaries of these two States.

The Court first dealt with the State of Karnataka, where the Registrar General had been directed to supply the Court with the details of the steps that had been taken to advertise new vacancies since the last date of hearing on 5th December, 2018. CJI Ranjan Gogoi expressed his concern regarding the submission that only 33 of 110 vacancies advertised earlier for the post of Civil Judge had been filled. Upon being asked as to why the majority of the posts did not have candidates, the Registrar General informed the Court that out of the 110 vacancies, only 13 were for the general category and all of these had been filled up. 42 of the vacancies yet to be filled were for reserved category candidates.

The CJI further sought clarification of the breakup of the reserved category vacancies and upon being given a copy of the advertisement, noted that categories like women and Physically Handicapped (PH) had been given upto 34% reservation. Justice Gogoi remarked that the vacancies were advertised in a defective manner and also informed the Registrar General of the High Court of Karnataka that if reservation for women, PH etc was being granted as a vertical reservation, the advertisement itself was illegal. Further, this would mean that the new advertisement of vacancies in January 2019 too had been done in a defective manner. CJI Gogoi asked Amicus Curiae Mr. Vishwanathan to communicate with the concerned authorities and seek clarification as to whether the reservation for women, PH category etc. was being granted as vertical reservation.  In the meantime, the Court would deal with the affidavits submitted by the State of Kerala on the question of the availability of infrastructure.

Moving on to Kerala, Mr. Vishvanathan informed the Court that it had earlier been submitted that a total of 91 new court halls and 271 residential units were required. He then referred to the affidavit dated 16.01.19 filed by the government of Kerala, where it had been recorded that 42 court halls were currently working out of rented premises and 49 were in dilapidated conditions, thus giving the breakup of the 91 court halls required.

At this point CJI Ranjan Gogoi interjected, to seek information about the status of the 45 Civil Judge vacancies, which were to be filled by December 15th, 2018. He also sought information about the training of new judges, which is set to commence next month, February 2019.  The Additional Secretary who was present in Court informed the Bench that a list of 41 vacancies had been advertised for which 2700 candidates had appeared. However, owing to the lack of candidates from the reserved categories, only 33 had been filled and the reserved category vacancies had been de-notified. Therefore, as far as the 33 vacancies were concerned, the police verification and other procedural formalities had been completed and the appointments were awaiting the assent of the Governor.

Upon being asked whether there were not enough candidates for the reserved category vacancies, the Additional Secretary responded in the affirmative specifying that particularly the Scheduled Tribes and Anglo-Indian vacancies did not have any eligible candidates. CJI Gogoi sought furhter information as to whether the criteria was relaxed for reserved category candidates and whether relevant categories were informed of the said relaxations. At this point, CJI Gogoi noted that in these situations, the High Court ought to grant some further relaxations as deemed fit, so as to ensure that vacancies from reserved categories were being filled up.

Coming back to the question of infrastructure, Mr. Vishwanathan apprised the court of the details of the new construction that had either commenced or for which plans had been submitted. He first submitted that 85 new courts had already been constructed and a total of 182 court halls in addition to the 91 would be available by March, 2022. However, Mr. Vishwanathan noted that there was some confusion as to whether the 85 courts that had already been constructed were an additional availability and could accommodate a majority of the 91 new courts that were required or whether these were already functioning buildings that were not part of the 91 new courts sought to be constructed. As per the Affidavit dated 21.0.19, they were part of the 91 courts but as per the Registrar General these were not to be counted towards the 91 new courts required.

In the case of Kerala too, CJI Gogoi asked Mr. Vishwanathan to seek clarification on the status of the availability of the 85 new court halls and decided to hear the matter in the second session after lunch. However, Mr. Vishwanathan sought time and requested that the case of Kerala and Karnataka be taken up on the date when the case was listed for submissions by other States.

The matter will be heard next on 19th February, 2019 on which date the two states of Karnataka and Kerala will submit their responses and clarifications to the questions raised by the Court.

(Court reporting by Disha Chaudhry)