Vacancies in subordinate judiciary unacceptable: SC

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The issue of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary has been a major concern since last year with the top court acknowledging the existence of a problem when it entertained a PIL regarding this issue in 2017. After Justice Ranjan Gogoi took over as the new Chief Justice of India he had stated his intentions clearly in resolving this issue as quickly as possible. True to his words, Justice Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul’s Bench took up the issue on Monday, October 22, 2018, and ordered the Supreme Court Registry to take suo motu cognizance on this issue.

Facts of the case

To find out the status of vacancies in subordinate judiciary the Bench comprising of Justices Gogoi and Kaul called upon the relevant information from the Supreme Court Registry. It came to their notice “there is a total number of 22,036 posts that exist in the District and Subordinate Judiciary in the country, of which 5133 posts are lying vacant.” The Apex  Court declared that this situation, that is, the “existence of vacancies to the extent indicated is wholly unacceptable. The Registry of this court is, therefore, directed to register a suo motu writ petitionthis issue.

The Apex Court in its order went further ahead seeking clarification from the respective high courts and state governments as well as other agencies involved in this process of recruitment in the subordinate judiciary. The Court asked clarification on –

  • The dates when the process of recruitment began and the tentative dates by which it is expected to be completed.
  • The Apex Court wanted to know if the time taken has exceeded the time fixed by the Court earlier and the reasons for the process not being completed in time, and whether or not it is the fault of the Public Service Commission which was responsible for arranging concern examinations for recruitment in subordinate judiciary.
  • The top court also showed concern regarding whether the , for the completion of the whole process could be shortened.
  • The Court wanted to know if there were any changes in the number of vacancies since the recruitment began as per the knowledge of the concerned authorities dealing with the process.
  • The Supreme Court also asked clarification regarding the adequate manpower present for smooth completion of the recruitment process from the Registries of high courts and concerned state governments.

The Apex  Court announced that it has been informed “that recruitment process/processes to fill up 4,180 posts are presently underway and the said recruitment processes are poised at different stages in different States. The information collected also indicates that total of 1,324 posts out of the 5,133 vacancies are yet to be subjected to any recruitment process.” ,

The Apex Court also requested the help of Senior Advocates of the Court for their valuable inputs regarding quick resolution of the matter. Senior Advocate Shyam Diwan was called for his assistance as Amicus Curiae for the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North-Eastern States. Similarly, Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan was asked for his valuable help with the states of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala. Senior Counselor Vijay Hansaria was to serve as Amicus Curiae for the states of Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Odisha, Patna and Punjab and Haryana, and the top court requested learned Counselor Gaurav Agrawal for his valuable assistance regarding the states of Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

Need for the focus on recruitment issue

A lot of judgments on a number of important issues are pending in lower courts over a number of years in the absence of judicial officers. A delay in justice not only is costing taxpayers money with the delay piling up with hundreds of new cases being filed daily all over the country but it is also eroding the faith of common man on the judicial system and the process of justice delivery. Up until now, through all kinds of trials and tribulations, our courts had stood steadfast in the face of the breakdown of every other system in our country. But our courts have withstood their grounds in the face of great adversities, even during Emergency, and have always helped to fight for the justice, dignity and freedom of all while upholding the tenets of our Constitution and democracy. Amidst our diversity, the doctrine of law and the edicts of our Constitution has always been the shining light guiding us to this day. It is unfathomable to even think that mere delay in the recruitment process in the subordinate judiciary can lead to such catastrophic circumstances when modern India is struggling to demonstrate its might in the world as a new superpower worthy of world’s attention and respect.

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