Chief Justice JS Khehar has constituted a special committee to suggest ways to ensure uniformity in the selection of judges for all lower courts, which have over 4,000 vacancies.
Though the decision to streamline appointments in the subordinate judiciary was taken on the administrative side, Justice Khehar announced it after a senior advocate requested him to list a PIL dealing with the issue on Wednesday.
The advocate, Vijay Hansaria, informed the bench that the top court has been monitoring the process for years – nudging the high courts to adopt a uniform procedure. The case in hand was heard last July.
“I want to share a secret. We have formed a panel that will give its report within 15 days. Wait till then. If that does not happen, you can mention it again,” the Chief Justice told Hansaria.
The country’s subordinate judiciary is being weighed in by over two crore cases. Law ministry data has suggested that while 41% of these cases are less than two years old, over 10% have been languishing before various lower courts for more than a decade.
Justice Khehar’s move to set up the panel comes close on the heels of law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad questioning the judiciary over its inaction in filling up trial court vacancies. Prasad had gone on the offensive after former Chief Justice TS Thakur criticised the government for sitting on recommendations to appoint high court judges.
“The posts of over 4,000 subordinate judges are lying vacant. Why are they not being filled up? Neither the Centre nor the state governments have any role to play in this because they have to be filled by the respective high courts on their own accord or through the public service commission,” the law minister said.
The committee will deal with issues such as fixing the dates for floating advertisements, conducting examinations and interviews, and issuance of appointment letters.
Hansaria, who has been assisting the court on the pending PIL, said he was hopeful of a concrete decision from the administration. “However, the same has to be incorporated on the judicial side, so high courts are made to follow it,” he told HT.
The advocate said there hasn’t been a major improvement in the situation despite the top court issuing several directives in his case.