Supreme Court says large vacancies for judges in Lower Courts unacceptable

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 moto order on the huge number of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary across the country, the court has sought the response from the High Courts/State governments as it noted that the recruitment process for filling 4,180 posts was already underway.

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 are adequate if all the posts that are borne in the cadre are to be filled up.

A seven-month schedule for recruitment has been formulated by the top court in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case. If the time taken exceeds the schedule fixed by this Court, the reasons thereof should 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.

Central recruitment to fill judges’ vacancies is the right idea:

The Union law ministry is working with the Supreme Court to conduct a nationwide examination to recruit around 6,000 judges for the lower judiciary as a one-time measure.

Under the nationwide recruitment scheme, a central agency will conduct the test with due importance given to local languages for those opting for a particular state. Subsequently, an all-India merit list will be prepared based on which the state governments will make the final appointments. Although this has been proposed as a one-time measure, there is a case here to have a permanent central judicial recruitment mechanism. This will also help ensure uniformity in judicial recruitment across the country.

This is much needed given the huge number of vacancies for judges and the high pendency of cases. In fact, lower courts currently have a backlog of 2.78 crore cases. Unless judges are quickly recruited, this number can’t be kept down. True, the appointment of judges in district and subordinate courts is the responsibility of state governments and the high courts concerned. But things have come to this pass because of inordinate delays in holding examinations for judicial recruitment at the state level.

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