SC warns of taking over district judges' selection

SC warns of taking over district judges' selection

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday warned the state governments and the high courts of resorting to centralised selection of district judges if more than 5,000 vacancies across the country are not filled in time.

“We are keeping you under constant gaze. We will do it ourselves. We will have a centralised selection process,” a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, examining suo motu the vacancies of judges in district courts.

The top court, in a judgement in Malik Mazhar Sultan in 2007, had given a time limit of one year for completing appointment of additional district judges in higher judicial service and nine months for civil judges, junior division.

Going through records of various high courts, which exercised superintendence and control over district courts, including recruitment of judges, the bench, also comprising Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, expressed displeasure at the “casual” approach towards filling up posts.

“All high courts with no exception and the Public Service Commissions are very casual. Even in response to the pin-pointed queries, the information provided by them is vague. This is true of all states,” the bench said.

“The most important part is infrastructure. If there are 22,036 sanctioned posts, the infrastructure provided must be able to sustain the functioning of those judges. If the infrastructure-- like courtrooms, support staff-- are only for 18,000 or 19,000 posts, how will they function? This is where the role of state governments comes in,” the bench added.

The bench also expressed shock that in Haryana an advertisement for filling up 60 posts of judges in 2015 drew 19,000 applications from law graduates but the examination was cancelled due to some hitch. A fresh advertisement was issued in 2018 and 13,000 more candidates applied but this time, the website crashed. To a query by the Supreme Court, the Punjab and Haryana HC said a meeting of the examination committee would soon decide on the next date, the court said.

'Wholly unacceptable'

Likewise, the court also pulled up the Delhi High Court for its registrar general's inability to appear before it during the hearing.

The court asked registrar general of high courts of Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and north eastern states to appear, along with senior officers from the respective states, before it on November 15 to explain the selection process and the hurdles in filling up posts of judges.

The court had earlier termed as “wholly unacceptable” that 5,133 posts of judicial officers out of the total 22,036 posts in district courts are lying vacant.