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SC hits out at govt for HC vacancies, says no decision on collegium-cleared names ‘for years’

SC says government must realise that early adjudication of commercial disputes is a necessity, for which there has to be adequate number of judges.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday expressed anguish over the recalcitrant attitude of government in not appointing judges for high courts for years even where recommendations have been cleared by the Collegium.

While referring to vacancies, the apex court said high courts are manned by number of judges where it will become almost impossible to have early adjudication of even important matters.

The top court said the government must realise that early adjudication of commercial disputes is the necessity for which there has to be adequate number of judges.

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy said that judicial institution is faced with such scenario despite the timeline laid down by the apex court in its April 20 order this year which appears to have not moved the government .

We have put to the ASG (Additional Solicitor General) that the recommendations take months and years to reach the Collegium and thereafter months and years no decisions are taken post the Collegium, the judicial institution of the High Courts is manned by a number of judges where it will become almost impossible to have an early adjudication even on important issues, the bench said.

The top court made the observations while hearing two separate pleas against an order of the Delhi High Court which had issued notice on a petition and interlocutory applications calling upon the parties to file responses in a matter pertaining to challenge to a notification for initiating anti-dumping investigation.

The bench noted that this can hardly be a stage of a proceeding where the Supreme Court of the country should be asked to step in.

Delhi High Court will be with less than 50 per cent judges in a week’s time having only 29 judges out of a strength of 60 judges while two decades back when one of us (Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul) was appointed as a judge it was as the 32nd judge of court whereas the strength was 33 judges, the bench noted in its order.

It said normally it would have asked the parties to approach the high court to see an early adjudication to the dispute but it can hardly say so when the high court is manned with less than half the strength.

We are facing the problem raised in these petitions on account of the recalcitrant attitude of the government in not appointing high court Judges for years together even where the recommendations have been cleared by the Collegium, the bench said.

It said the real rub is in the fact that high court does not find it feasible to accommodate such matters at an early date and this is the direct result of there being inadequacies of number of judges, including in the capital of the country, where the Delhi High Court is located.

The bench noted if there is some element of loss being caused by inability of judicial institution to take up matters, this is a direct consequence of there being inadequate number of judges.

In view of all the aforesaid, the government must realise that early adjudication of commercial disputes is the necessity for which there has to be adequate number of judges which in turn would require them to follow the timelines said down in ., the bench said.

It said the factual matrix paints an even a sorrier picture of the government’s conduct as the high court had on June 4 issued notice and called upon counter affidavits to be filed within four weeks.

The bench said it has been informed that government took further four week time to file the counter affidavit necessitating the adjournment in the matter till October 5.

Thus, on one hand, the government does not deem it expedient to even file the counter affidavits while it has the ability to draw the special leave petitions and file the same before this court. So much for the urgency expressed by the Government of India in the present proceedings!, the bench said while dismissing the petitions.

In its April 20 order passed in a separate matter, the top court had expressed concern over the crisis situation in high courts which were grappling with 40-50 per cent vacancies and said the Centre should appoint judges within 3-4 weeks if the collegium reiterates its recommendations unanimously. It had also come out with timelines to facilitate the process.

On August 6, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana had termed non-filling of vacancies at various tribunals a very sorry state of affairs and asked the Centre to apprise it within ten days about the steps taken and said it suspects some lobbies have been working in this regard.

The apex court had said there are 19 vacant posts of presiding officers followed by 110 and 111 unfilled positions of judicial and technical members respectively in 15 types of quasi-judicial bodies ranging from Debt Recovery Tribunals to National Company Law Tribunals in the country.


Also read: SC asks Centre’s report over recommendations of task force on oxygen allocation in 2 weeks


 

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