SC says large vacancies for judges in lower courts unacceptable

New Delhi: Describing as “unacceptable” the existence of 5,133 vacancies of judges in “Higher Judicial Service” and “Lower Judicial Service”, the Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the State governments and the High Courts whether the time for the ongoing recruitment of 4,180 judicial officers could be shortened.

Passing a suo motu order on the huge number of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary across the country, the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul sought the response from the High Courts/State governments as it noted that the recruitment process for filling 4,180 posts was already underway.

At a function on October 3 to felicitate Justice Gogoi upon his elevation as the Chief Justice of India, he had said that in the coming 3-4 months, he would focus on filling up about 5,000 vacancies in the subordinate judiciary in order to tackle a backlog of over 2.6 crore cases.

He had, however, said that mere filling of vacancies would not solve the problem.

Seeking details as to when the recruitment process/processes for filling 4,180 posts for “Higher Judicial Service” and “Lower Judicial Service” was initiated and was expected to be complete, the top court wanted to know if the time being taken was beyond the seven-month schedule formulated by the top court in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case.

Under the schedule, the process for recruitment has to commence on March 31 and be completed by October 31 of the calendar year.

The court said that the time limit fixed by it (top court) from the initiation of the recruitment process till its completion was the “outer limit” and not the “minimum period of completion.”

However, “If the time taken has exceeded the schedule fixed by this Court, the reasons thereof be furnished by the Registries of such High Courts/concerned authorities of the State where the recruitment is done through the Public Service Commission(s) which are in default”, the court said in its order.

Noting that there was a mismatch in the number of vacancies, the number of posts for which recruitment process is underway and those still pending, the apex court also sought details of the vacancies that have occurred since the current recruitment process commenced.

The court also sought information whether “infrastructure and manpower available in the different states is adequate if all the posts that are borne in the cadre are to be filled up.”

Directing that all the information sought by it should reach the Secretary General of Supreme Court by October 31, the court appointed four amicus curiae who are responsible for different states and would be assisting the court in the hearing of the matter.

Senior counsel Shyam Divan has been appointed amicus curiae to assist the court for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the north-eastern states.

Senior counsel K.V. Vishwanathan would be assisting the court as amicus curiae for Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala.

For Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana, the court has asked senior counsel Vijay Hansaria to assist the court.

Advocate Gaurav Agrawal has been appointed amicus curiae to assist the court for Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

The court listed of the matter for further hearing on November 1.