Day 23 Arguments

Judicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts

March 5th 2020

The Supreme Court is monitoring the filling of judicial vacancies in the lower courts. In the previous hearing Chief Justice Bobde, Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Surya Kant directed the Registrar Generals of various High Courts to file update reports by the end of February.

Today, the Bench was expected to hear Sr. Adv. Shyam Divan as an amicus curiae for the following States: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North Eastern States. While Sr. Adv. Divan was not present today, the counsel for the High Court of West Bengal brought to the Bench’s attention that the State Government had yet to appoint recommended names. The Bench adjourned the matter till tomorrow, when it will hear the State Government explain its objections to the appointments.

Sr. Adv. Divan’s Office asks for adjournment 

As Sr. Adv. Divan was absent today, his junior asked for a passover. The Bench suggested that the case could be listed after the upcoming Holi vacation.

Appointments not being made in West Bengal

Before the Bench could adjourn the case, the advocate representing the High Court of West Bengal raised that the State Government had failed to make recommended appointments. He submitted that the High Court had completed its recruitment process and recommended names, which have yet to be notified.The advocate for the State explained that the State Government had concerns about five of the recommended judges, as it had received negative reports about them. Chief Justice Bobde and Justice Gavai asked the advocate for the State to explain the specific concerns that the State had. In response, the advocate informed the Bench that he doesn’t possess the relevant document, but that he would submit it later today.

Expanding upon his earlier submission, the advocate for the High Court submitted that there had been no progress since the meeting on 16 January 2020 between the State Law Minister and all High Court judges. He proceeded to read out the minutes from the meeting.

Chief Justice Bobde reminded the advocate for the State that the Court had set a deadline of 31 March 2020 for the filling of all vacancies. Given that today is 5 March, all recommended names must be notified within a week, the Chief Justice added. In response, the advocate submitted that all the names would be notified, except those five which the State had expressed reservations about.

Justice Gavai inquired as to when the High Court had submitted the names to the State. The advocate for the High Court replied that this had been done in August of last year (2019). Justice Gavai remarked that the Government cannot continue to sit on this, stressing that any enquiry into the five judges in question, should have already been completed.

The Court directed the the State Government to complete any queries into the backgrounds of the five judges in question within three days. Concluding the hearing, the Bench listed the matter for tomorrow. It will hear the advocate for the State Government present the concerns, if any, about appointing the five judges in question. Accordingly, the Bench will pass directions and orders. The advocate for the Government submitted that in the interim all other names will be notified.

(Court reporting by Shantanu Lakhotia)