Judicial Vacancies | Day 4: Supreme Court directs Madras High Court to expedite the filling of vacancies in Tamil Nadu and PuducherryJudicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts
Today, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud with Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra set deadlines for filling vacancies in the district judiciaries of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria appeared as amicus curiae. In the previous hearing, Hansaria submitted a report on the vacancies and infrastructural deficiencies in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana district judiciary. The Bench had set different deadlines for multiple types of vacancies across various months till March 2024.
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.
23% vacancy in the district judiciary of Tamil Nadu
The district judiciary of Tamil Nadu had 327 judicial vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 1369, as per a report by the Registrar General of the Madras High Court. These vacancies include district judges, civil junior judges, and civil senior judges.
The process of appointment of district judges is from three quotas: Direct recruitment (25%), limited competitive examination (10%), and promotion (65%). The report claimed that 84 positions for district judges were vacant out of a strength of 349. Further, it stated that there were 77 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 364 civil senior judges. Lastly, there were 166 vacancies out of 656 posts in the position of civil junior judge.
The Supreme Court directed that the selection process for 15 vacancies in the direct recruitment quota should be completed by 31 March 2024. The process for the limited competitive examinations quota was given the same deadline. The Court did not make any directions for 17 vacancies in the promotion quota due to vacancies in the feeder cadre. The feeder cadre is a pool of judges from which judicial officers are selected for promotion.
The Court also directed that the process for civil junior judges should be completed by 31 December 2023, and appointment orders must be issued by the end of February 2024. There were no directions for civil senior judges due to vacancies in the feeder cadre.
Appointment of 15 candidates pending in Puducherry
On 19 October 2023, 15 candidates were recommended as civil junior judges in Puducherry. The Chief Secretary of Puducherry was yet to notify the appointments of these candidates.
The Bench directed that the notification of the appointment should be made by 31 December 2023.
The Bench will hear the case next on 20 November 2023 when Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, who is the Court appointed amicus for Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Kerala, is expected to provide details of vacancies in these states.