Judicial Vacancies | Day 3: Supreme Court sets deadline for filling judicial vacancies in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and HaryanaJudicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts
Today, the Supreme Court directed the Madhya Pradesh High Court, and the Punjab and Haryana High Court to ensure that vacancies in the district judiciary of these states are filled expeditiously. The Bench passed several directions for the appointment of district judges, civil senior judges, and civil junior judges.
Currently, the appointment of district judges is carried out through a Direct Recruitment Quota (25%), Limited Competitive Examinations (10%), and promotions (65%). While the first two are competitive exams, the third method is based on seniority.
Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, appearing as an amicus curiae, submitted a report on the judicial vacancies and infrastructural deficiencies in the district judiciary of the states.
Advocate Arjun Garg appeared on behalf of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Manoj Kumar Shrivastava, the Registrar General of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, was present through video-conferencing to answer queries of the Bench.
Advocate Ashok Mathur appeared for the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Ramesh Chander Dimri, the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court appeared through video-conferencing.
On October 22nd, 2018, a 2-Judge Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K. Kaul took suo motu cognisance of the high number of judicial vacancies in the District and Subordinate Courts.
The Bench appointed four amici curiae to assist the Court in monitoring States:
- Shyam Divan, responsible for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North Eastern States.
- KV Vishwanathan, responsible for Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala.
- Vijay Hansaria, responsible for Madhya Pradesh and the High Courts of Madras, Odisha, Patna and Punjab & Haryana.
- Gaurav Agrawal, responsible for Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
In this suo moto exercise, the Court undertook a supervisory role to ensure that the High Courts and State governments fill judicial vacancies in a timely fashion, as defined by Malik Mazhar Sultan. In Malik Mazhar Sultan, the Supreme Court had ordered all States to compose a fixed time schedule for filling judicial vacancies in their State and submit this schedule to the Court.
Hansaria: 80 vacancies pending since October 2020 in Madhya Pradesh
Hansaria submitted that the date of examination for the Direct Recruitment examination was yet to be notified, even after an advertisement was released for 21 vacancies on 22 August 2022. Further, the process for filling 80 posts from the promotion quota has been pending since 1 October 2020. Hansaria pointed out that the Civil Judge Senior Division has 84 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 514. For the Civil Judge Junior Division, the vacancy stood at 251 out of a strength of 768 judges.
Hansaria contended that the finalisation of the Annual Confidential Reports (ACR) was responsible for this delay. “They have to take ACR of the last five years, in the last five years they take the current year also” he stated. This results in the completion of the process by “next year September.” He described this as a “consistent problem.” As a solution, he suggested that the ACR should be conducted five years prior to the date of advertisement of the vacancies.
Lastly, Hansaria identified “infrastructural problems” such as the allotment of land in Madhya Pradesh for the district judiciary.
CJI Chandrachud: “Why is the [Madhya Pradesh] High Court sleeping over its duties?”
CJI Chandrachud demanded answers from Garg on why there were procedural delays and a lack of a definite schedule. Garg responded that the date of the preliminary examination for direct recruitment was notified for 3 December 2023. He offered to submit an affidavit specifying the examination timeline, the announcement of results, and the appointment of the district judges.
The Supreme Court made the following directions:
Appointments through direct recruitment:
Prepare and publish a “comprehensive time schedule for
- completing the assessment of the preliminary examination answer sheets and declaration of results;
- the dates for the written examination; and for the assessment and declaration of results;
- Dates for conducting interviews;
- Publishing the results, and notifying the selected list for appointment.
Appointment through limited competitive examination:
Based on Hansaria’s report, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had identified one successful candidate for appointment through the limited competitive examination quota. The written examination for that quota took place on 23 July 2023. The Bench directed that the notification of appointment for that candidate should be carried out within 15 days.
Appointment through Promotion:
The Bench agreed with Hansaria’s solution to conduct ACRs five years before the date of advertisement for the post. They directed that the process for appointment via promotion, and the process for filling up vacancies of civil senior and junior judges should be completed by 7 December 2023. Not considering the current year for the ACR, would expedite the process.
The Bench directed that Garg and Shrivastava work with the Chief Secretary of the state of Madhya Pradesh to address “infrastructural problems.” Garg was directed to submit a report by 7 December 2023 on the steps taken to solve these problems.
Supreme Court: Recruitment and Promotion Committee of Punjab and Haryana High Court to provide a timeline for direct recruitment
Hansaria informed the Court that in Punjab, there were 21 out of the sanctioned 58 posts remained vacant. Dimri responded that, per a meeting on 2 November 2023, the Recruitment and Promotion Committee of the High Court will release an advertisement for the vacant posts “within a week.” Further, the last date for submitting an application for the candidates was set for 22 December 2023.
Hansaria then informed the Court that 114 candidates for civil judge junior division were awaiting approval from the state government. There was “no problem” in terms of civil judges in the senior division.
CJI Chandrachud inquired whether a timeline was announced by the committee for the dates for the written examination, announcement of results, and conducting interviews. Dimri answered in the negative. The Bench directed him “to request the committee” to fix a time schedule for completing the process by 31 March 2024. The Bench also issued directions to the state government to issue a formal notification for the appointments of 114 candidates by 7 December 2023. The Bench also directed Mathur to meet with the Chief Secretary and submit a report on “infrastructural problems” faced by the state.
Haryana Government alleges faulty procedure for candidates recruited through promotion
On the procedure for recruiting candidates via promotion, Hansaria pointed out that there was a “little problem” in the district judiciary of Haryana. He highlighted that on 10 August 2023, the committee deferred a meeting convened to fill up 24 vacancies in the direct recruitment quota. The reasons for deferring the meeting, he said, were unknown to him. Further, he pointed out that 13 names shortlisted in the promotion quota were not accepted by the Haryana government and a petition challenging this was pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The next date of hearing is 8 November 2023.
Dimri submitted that the committee is scheduled to convene on 7 November 2023 to consider the direct recruitment quota. Similarly, five vacancies in the promotion quota will also be discussed in that meeting.
The Bench stated that the Supreme Court must be “apprised of the decisions” of the committee. Further, the parties were directed to inform the Court of the developments in the writ petition expected to be heard later this week.
This report has been updated on 7 November 2023.