CJI unveils ‘Mission 2019’

Unhappy with the snail-paced recruitment of trial judges by high courts and the lackadaisical approach of states in providing staff and infrastructure, the Supreme Court went into mission mode to ensure filling up of 5,000-odd judge vacancies and providing them with adequate infrastructure and staff by the end of next year.

A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said over a decade ago, the SC had laid down timelines to fill up of vacancies of trial judge posts but it had not been followed. States too have not provided adequate infrastructure with staff to trial courts, which are clogged with 2.6 crore pending cases.

Announcing ‘Mission 2019’, the CJI said “irrespective of what is the stand of the HCs and state governments, it is now the responsibility of the SC to ensure the vacancies are filled up.” The bench said, “We’ll ensure that trial judges are in place with full strength and demonstrate that the lower judiciary is not functioning because of failure of states to provide adequate infrastructure and staff.”

The bench adopted a two pronged strategy — on one hand it pushed HCs and public service commissions to expedite recruitment process to have judicial officers in full strength before the end of 2019 and on the other hand, it made top bureaucrats of states accountable to the SC for providing courtrooms, staff and houses to every judicial officer.

Allahabad HC and UP were quick to fall in line with small interventions from amicus curiae Shyam Divan. While the HC and state public services commission promised to complete recruitment of nearly 1,000 judicial officers by mid-2019, the state assured that all judicial officers recruited would be provided with required infrastructure.

Maharashtra and Goa governments and the Bombay high court told the apex court that it would take necessary steps to fill the vacancies and provide infrastructure.

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