“Enough is enough”, said the Supreme Court on Thursday expressing displeasure over tardy approach of different high courts and state governments in filling up vacant posts for judges in lowers courts and providing proper infrastructure for them. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on its own had taken note of over 5,000 vacancies for judicial officers and directed all the 24 high courts and 36 states and UTs to apprise it of remedial measures.
On Thursday, it took stock of the situation in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North-Eastern states.
“We want our judges. We want our judges to function. We want courtrooms, infrastructure and man power (support staff) for them. They say that there is pendency. Enough is enough…,” said the bench, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.
“Some part of the problem has to be dealt with. We will show them (government) that there is not adequate courtrooms, staffs and residences for judges,” it added.
The top court was particularly critical of the lack of progress in states like UP, Delhi and West Bengal.
In day-long hearing, the bench first perused the responses of the UP government, UP Public Services Commission (UPPSC) and the Registrar General of the Allahabad High Court on vacancies, the recruitment process and the aspects relating to man power and infrastructure for the judges.
On being informed that there were around 1,000 vacancies of judicial officers in UP, the bench said, “We are going to ensure that these 1,000 posts (of judicial officers) are filled up.”
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said that of the 1,000 vacancies in lower judiciary, 394 posts are in higher judicial services (HJS) in UP.
He informed the bench that two separate recruitment processes were on to fill up vacancies of 125 and 239 posts of Additional district and sessions judges in UP.
The bench directed that the processes should be completed by March 31 and July 31, 2019 respectively.
The bench asked the UP government whether it was in a position top provide the courtrooms, support staffs and residences to the judges who would be appointed on the culmination of the recruitment process.
The court, which was critical of lack of infrastructure for the judiciary, later took note of the undertaking by the Uttar Pradesh government that it was committed to providing adequate infrastructure for the judiciary.
“If we succeed in filling up the vacancies then there will be no deficiency in providing any kind of infrastructure like courtrooms and support staffs,” the bench said while taking note of the undertakings of the state government.
The bench, which was told that the Allahabad High Court was also seized of the matter, said that it would continue to monitor the issue.
It was informed that the state government has advertised 6,135 posts of grade III and IV employees who will be working as support staffs of the judges to be appointed.
The Delhi High Court Registry and AAP-led city government were also at the receiving end when they told the bench that there were 201 vacancies in lower judiciary in the national capital, but it had advertised for 100 posts in two separate recruitment processes.
“You have advertised 50 and 50 posts since 2017. Don’t you need 100 other judicial officers. How do you explain? You do not want 100 other judicial officers,” the bench asked.
The registrar then said that there were problems with regard to courtrooms and other infrastructure.
He said that the Delhi government had filed an affidavit setting out a time line of 3 years for completion of certain court buildings.
“We cannot wait for three years,” the bench said, adding that it may explore the option of running the court from rented premises.
It also asked the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government to file an affidavit detailing position on construction of courtrooms in the national capital for new judges.
The bench asked the Delhi High Court to conclude the recruitment processes to appoint 100 judges by January 31 and May 30, 2019 next year.
It was critical of the fact that 50 posts were advertised yesterday only.
“So you advertised yesterday and are telling us today. You are a judicial officer, are you not. This is your family too”, the CJI told the Registrar General of Delhi High Court.
The bench also noted the lack of infrastructure and staff for the judiciary in West Bengal and said that the court may summon the Chief Secretary if the need arises.
“We will get the Chief Secretary and pin him down. The state government should tell us when it will provide courtrooms, residential houses for judges and support staff. Is it not the duty of the state to provide houses to judges,” the bench asked.
The bench, however, expressed satisfaction with progress made in Maharashtra, Goa, Chhattisgarh and some north-eastern states.
The apex court has now posted the case for hearing on December 5 when it will take up case of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala and would be assisted by senior advocate and amicus curiae K V Vishwanathan.
It had said there were 22,036 posts of higher and lower judicial officers in lower courts in the country and, as on date, 5,133 posts are vacant.