The Supreme Court Thursday took exception to the Gujarat government keeping proposals for improving the infrastructure of district courts pending for years.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, which is hearing a matter relating to the improvement of judicial infrastructure across the country including filling up of vacancies, directed that the vacancies in Gujarat state district judiciary, which is around one-third of the sanctioned strength, be filled by March this year.
“There is no justification for proposals to be kept pending by Gujarat for eight years. Proper coordination between the High Court and the state would have ensured proposals are cleared. We direct that at least 40 proposals be cleared at the earliest,” the bench said.
It added that the state law secretary and the registrar general of the high court will monitor the progress with regard to other proposals.
It noted that out of the 75 pending proposals regarding infrastructure in Gujarat, 40 are slated to be cleared alongside the annual budget.
The top court said the timeline specified for filling up vacancies of judges in district judiciary be scrupulously followed and a compliance affidavit be filed at the earliest.
Earlier, the top court was told by amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria and advocate Sneha Kalita that more than 650 posts are lying vacant in the district courts of Madhya Pradesh and 1,541 courtrooms are available in the state against the 2,021 sanctioned posts of judicial officers.
Hansaria, assisting the apex court as one of the four “amici curiae” (friends of the court) in a matter relating to infrastructure and filing up of vacancies in district courts across the country, has filed his sixth report, which throws light on the status of vacancies and infrastructure in district courts of six states and two Union territories.
The report gave the details of vacancies and infrastructure in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and the Union territories of Puducherry and Chandigarh.
It had said that according to the reports received from the Madhya Pradesh High Court on January 16 and January 30, the number of sanctioned posts in the district judiciary is 2,021, while the number of existing vacancies is 671.
The status report had further said according to a report received from the Orissa High Court on January 30, the number of sanctioned posts in the state is 1,001, of which 107 judicial officers are not holding courts.
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Thus, the effective strength of judicial officers holding courts in the state is 894. The report said the number of existing vacancies in Odisha is 174 while the numbers of courtrooms and residential units available in the state are 812 and 706 respectively.
The report had said the high court has also underlined the requirement of 123 additional courtrooms in Odisha.
Regarding Bihar, Hansaria had said that according to the report received from the Patna High Court on January 30, the number of sanctioned posts in the state is 2,016 while that of the existing vacancies is 449.
The report had said the number of courtrooms available in Bihar is 1,505 while 90 are under construction.
It had said the number of residential units available in Bihar is 1,197 while 60 are under construction.
The report had further said in Tamil Nadu, the number of sanctioned posts in the district judiciary is 1,340 and that of the existing vacancies is 272.
Regarding the judicial infrastructure in the southern state, it said the number of courtrooms available is 1,212 while the number of residential units available is 1,340, of which 594 are private rented buildings.
The report said the number of sanctioned posts in Punjab is 797 and that of the existing vacancies is 209. It said the number of courtrooms available in Punjab is 601, including 32 temporary ones, and residential units are available for all the officers. For Haryana, the report said the number of sanctioned posts is 778 and that of the existing vacancies is 308.
It had said the number of courtrooms and residential units available in Haryana is sufficient for the current working strength.
In 2018, a bench headed by the then chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had taken suo motu cognisance of more than 5,000 judicial officers’ posts lying vacant in district courts and sought responses of all the high courts and states.