Judicial Vacancies in Lower Courts | Day 6: Supreme Court questions Delhi government on delay in disbursement of funds for judicial infrastructureJudicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts
Today, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra expressed displeasure over a dearth of judicial infrastructure in the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD).
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing as amicus curiae, submitted a status report on the infrastructural gaps in the district judiciary of Delhi.
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.
Divan: Delay in disbursement of funds
Divan stated that the execution of plans for expanding the judicial infrastructure, which were approved by the Department of Law, Justice and Legislative Affairs, Government of NCTD, was delayed due to “some sort of a ping-pong” between the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Finance Department.
The status report revealed that construction plans for the expansion of judicial infrastructure at Shastri Park, Karkardooma and Sector 26, Rohini were approved in March 2021. Additionally, the plan for the Rouse Avenue court complex was approved in September 2019.
The CJI stated that it is a “matter of regret” that plans are still pending approval for the grant of funds by the government. “We need approval by Thursday”, he observed sternly.
Delhi High Court also required around 200 additional courtrooms in the next 12 months, but the process was stalled due to a delay in the disbursement of funds for judicial infrastructure, Divan submitted.
CJI Chandrachud remarked that the Delhi High Court is supposed to be “a model High Court”, but in actuality, there are no courtrooms for judicial officers who are currently undergoing training.
The status report additionally stated that the working strength of judicial officers in Delhi is 831 (against the sanctioned strength of 887). Further, there is a shortage of 118 courtrooms in the district judiciary. Lastly, the report indicated that there is an acute shortage of residential accommodation for judicial officers.
Supreme Court: No justification for lackadaisical approach
If not remedied at the earliest, the consequence will be a “serious dearth of judicial infrastructure”, the Bench observed.
“We find no reason or justification for (such) lackadaisical approach of the GNCTD in meeting the demands of the Delhi district judiciary”, the Bench recorded in its short order.
The Bench directed that a meeting shall be convened on 12 December 2023 which will be presided over by the Acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and attended by the Chief Secretary of the Government of NCTD, Principal Secretaries of Law and Finance, and the secretary in-charge of PWD.
The matter will be heard again on Thursday, 13 December 2023, when the Government of NCTD will apprise the court of the sanctions for the approved projects.