Judicial Vacancies in Lower Courts | Day 5: Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala to submit compliance report by 30 April 2024Judicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts
Today, a Bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra heard an update and passed directions pending judicial vacancies in the states of Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala.
The court-appointed amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal presented an update about Jharkhand and Karnataka and Advocate Ravi Raghunath appraised the Bench about the position in Kerala.
Previously, the amicus for these states was Justice K.V. Viswanathan, however since his elevation to the Bench in June 2023, the states under his purview have been taken up by the other amici in the case.
Before the proceedings could commence, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, amicus assisting with the states of Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Patna and Punjab & Haryana, proposed an all-India exam for judicial services. The Bench, however, refused to entertain the proposal. They clarified that they had assembled for a different purpose—to get an update from states on judicial vacancies and infrastructural issues and that a proposal to introduce exams needed careful consideration from the states and High Courts.
ltiple 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.
Jharkhand: Infrastructure and lack of manpower are key issues
Agarwal informed the Bench that as far as judicial vacancies are concerned, the State is in a good position. There were 18 vacancies in the direct recruitment quota. None qualified in the district judges examination quota. The 12 vacancies in the Jharkhand High Court under this quota had to be filled through promotion. There were also five vacancies in the Civil Judge Senior Division.
The key issues, Agarwal said, lay with infrastructural backlogs and lack of manpower with other judicial staff.
On courtroom infrastructure, Agarwal submitted that there were 652 Courtrooms in the state. Of these, 315 were working under the judicial department and 337 were functioning from government buildings. There were ongoing construction activities in the state.
Agarwal then gave district-wise updates. In Lohardaga district,12 Courtrooms remained to be constructed in a two-phased manner. The first phase which was to be completed by December 2023 is running behind schedule by six months. The civil district judiciary had sought a vacant building to shift into. There had been delays on this as well. In another district, 10 court halls were in their final stages of construction in Chaibasa, West Singhbhum district. Agarwal sought for the Court to direct the state to expedite this process.
Seven more proposals for additional courtrooms were pending either at the High Court or the State government. The funds for these, Agarwal said, had already been made available by the Union government.
Lastly, Agarwal stated that across the state, there were a large number of vacancies with “manpower” pending for years. To combat these issues, the amicus recommended that a meeting be held with the Advocate General of Jharkhand, the Finance Secretary of the state, the Law Secretary, the Registrar General of the High Court, the amicus and the counsel appearing for the State government. The purpose of this meeting will be to set a schedule for the ongoing constructions and the proposals pending sanctions.
The Court accepted this recommendation and directed that the meeting be held within three weeks. As far as filling up vacancies in the state are concerned, the Court directed the government to notify them in two weeks.
Karnataka: Several infrastructural projects pending administrative sanctions
In Karnataka, the amicus informed the Bench that the government had set timelines to fill the vacancies in the Court. The bigger issue, Agarwal said, was that there were pending infrastructure projects in the lower judiciary. Agarwal informed the Court that there were three Courts pending administrative sanctions. In two other Courts, the rooms were constructed but additional works such as the building of compound walls were pending. There were also transfers of land for the purpose of construction of Courtrooms which were pending before the government.
On the issue of hiring for the other staff, Agarwal informed the Court that several proposals were pending before the government for well over three years.
To tackle these issues, Agarwal recommended a similar meeting as proposed for Jharkhand between members of the bar, bench and the State government. The Bench accepted this recommendation and directed the meeting be held within three weeks. They also directed that the state stick to the timelines to fill the judicial vacancies in the state.
Kerala: Unable to find land for judicial constructions
Raghunathan informed the Bench that in Kerala, as far as filling in judicial vacancies was concerned, there was no major issue. The main issue was that land for the construction of nine projects identified by the High Court was not easily available. He sought a similar solution as Jharkhand and Karnataka to ensure that a committee comprising members of the High Court, the government and the Bench can overlook any action to be taken. The Bench accepted this suggestion and directed representatives to convene within three weeks to discuss the issues. Lastly, the Bench also sought a compliance report from all three states on 30 April 2024.