November 02, 2018

SC cautions HCs over filling up of vacancies


Coming down heavily on the high courts in the country on the issue of vacancy of posts, on November 1, a Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph said, "We are telling the high courts and states, if you can't do it, then we will take over. We want trial judges of the sanctioned strength to be in place. We are keeping you (HCs and states) in constant gaze."

Disappointed with the inadequate actions from HCs in filing up the vacancies of over 5,000 judicial posts in the lower judiciary, the bench said, their [HCs’] attitude towards filling the vacancies was at best “casual”. The bench further added that “All High Courts and the Public Service Commission are very casual.”

The court was also disappointed by the lack of responses from HCs to the SC's questions on progress in the recruitment process, steps taken to fill balance and future vacancies, and whether the current infrastructure was adequate for smooth functioning of courts if all vacancies were filled. In April 2006, a bench headed by then CJI Y K Sabharwal in a judgment in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case had given a time frame of one year for completing the recruitment of additional district judges and nine months for civil judges, junior division; however, HCs had not followed the timeline.

CJI Gogoi then examined the details given by HCs and said, "Long and short of it is that all HCs, without exception, have taken a casual approach on filling vacancies."

The CJI then said, "Even to our pin-point question about adequacy of infrastructure for trial courts, the information given is vague. This is true of every HC. The infrastructure to be made available is not only courtrooms for all 22,000 judicial officers, when it reaches full sanctioned strength, but also about chamber, housing, and support staff for the judicial officers. State governments have to provide this infrastructure."

The bench observed that in Haryana, the advertisement for filling 60 posts of judges was announced in 2015 and 19,000 law graduates applied; however, the exam was cancelled. Thereafter, in 2018, when a fresh advertisement was issued, 13,000 more candidates applied; however, the website crashed.

To this issue, the CJI said, "Between 2015 and today, for 100-odd posts of judicial officers, nearly 32,000 law graduates have applied. This is a huge talent pool. But see how we are treating them? In the affidavit filed by Punjab and Haryana HC, no mention is made about the problems. It is only when we asked on the administrative side that we were told that the website for filing application had crashed. Yet, nothing was done. And there is no one present from the HC today to answer the court's queries."

The bench thus ordered the registrars-general of the High Courts of Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and the northeastern States as well as a senior bureaucrat from the states to appear before it on November 15.

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