Supreme Court pulls up high courts, state govts over vacancies in lower judiciary
The Supreme Court has warned state governments and high courts (HCs) that it will take over the process of filling up vacancies in the lower judiciary if they fail to expedite the exercise.
“We are telling all high courts and states that we are keeping you under constant gaze. If you cannot fill vacancies, then we will take over and have a centralised exam. We want our judges to be in place” a bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi told lawyers.
Statistics reveal there are 5,223 vacancies in trial courts. The Centre has proposed a centralised examination to fill them up, pointing to a staggering 2,76,74,499 cases pending in subordinate courts. But states and high courts have opposed the suggestion.
On October 22, CJI Gogoi’s bench took up the matter on its own and ordered all state governments and HCs to update it on the status of recruitment of lower court judges and whether the timeline for selection as laid down by the top court in a 2006 verdict was being followed.
As per the order, appointment of new judges to subordinate courts has to be completed in nine months. “All high courts and public service commissions (agency that holds exams) have been very casual,” CJI Gogoi said.
He added that nothing was initiated to address the issue till the SC began monitoring it on the administrative side. Even then, he rued, recurring queries have not yielded any definite replies.
States and HCs failed to indicate how they were short of infrastructure. “The level of indifference is phenomenal, ” the CJI said. The situation in Delhi and Haryana was discussed as an example. The bench, also comprising justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph, said Delhi had taken at least a year to fill up just 200 vacancies.
In Haryana, the bench revealed, the examination held in 2015 was cancelled and the fresh advertisement issued in 2018 attracted a huge rush, leading to collapse of the official website on the last date of application.
Deciding to examine the status in batches, the bench summoned in person the registrar general and authorized representatives of the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North-eastern states on November 15.