Judicial Vacancies in Lower Courts | Day 8: Remove encroachment on land allotted to Delhi High Court expeditiously, says Supreme CourtJudicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts
Today, a Division Bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud passed directions to expeditiously resolve infrastructural setbacks on renovation projects at the Delhi High Court. Senior Advocate Shyam Divan and Advocate K. Parameshwar apprised the Court of land encroachments and other issues causing a delay in the projects.
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.
- 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.
CJI Chandrachud: Return possession of encroached land to Delhi High Court
Parameshwar, a Court appointed Amicus, pointed out that the Aam Aadmi Party had set up its office on the land allotted at the Rouse Avenue Complex for the Delhi High Court. The plan was to build 32 Courtrooms on this land. According to Parameshwar, the encroached land was provided to the Delhi High Court six years ago but the government had neither taken any steps to remove the encroachers nor provide any alternate plan for the building of the High Court. He further pointed out that the Government is “sleeping over” starting construction on the unencroached part of the land due to trees, for which compensatory afforestation plans are yet to be prepared.
CJI Chandrachud stated that a political party cannot be “sitting tight” on land allotted to the High Court. “You cannot take the law into your own hands,” he said. “Why did you allot it to the High Court then?” After getting the assurance from the Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Bannerjee, CJI Chandrachud stated, “Come and tell us when you are giving unencumbered possession to the High Court. This has to come to an end.”
Divan added that the government wants to float two separate tenders for the transplantation of 16 trees on the unencumbered land, and a second tender for 55 courtrooms. Almost speaking in sync, Divan and CJI Chandrachud exclaimed that there should be a composite tender instead of the two-part process. “Why should you split this up?” asked Divan. Parameshwar added that this process was intentionally split to further delay the project.
The Bench directed the Chief Secretary of Government of the NCT of Delhi, the Secretary incharge of the Public Works Department, and the Finance Secretary to convene a meeting with the Registrar General of the High Court. They directed that the meeting should take place before the next date of hearing on 19 February 2024 where “all outstanding issues are settled without waiting for further directions” from the Supreme Court. The Bench also directed them to furnish a specific timeline for removing the encroachment.
Divan: Temporary arrangements are inadequate
Divan suggested that the Court should direct the NCT of Delhi to make temporary measures and provide alternative premises to the Delhi High Court. He highlighted that the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited building which was made available to the Court was inadequate. The Bench directed that the issue flagged by Divan should also be “sorted out” and alternate temporary premises be proposed.