SC gives the Center six weeks to fill vacant court positions

NEW DELHI: On Tuesday, it expressed its serious displeasure at the approach at a snail's pace to fill a large number of vacant positions for administrative, judicial and court members, rendering them nonfunctional despite the fact that they are performing important tasks as a reddresal for consumer disputes.

A bank of judges Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay K Kaul and BR Gavai drew the attorney general's attention to the National Commission for the Repair of Consumer Disputes (NCDRC), the consumer forum that has vacancies from 3 judicial and 4 non-judicial members against a total sanctioned force of 11 members.

It is a perennial problem with many courts that were created to lessen the workload of constitutional courts. However, the non-occupation of vacancies has stopped his work, he said and asked Mehta to impress on the government speed up appointments to courts. The bank extended the tenure of the withdrawing judicial member of the NCDRC, Justice V K Jain, for another three months.

Mehta agreed that there is a serious problem and that it required expeditious resolution. "I agree it is a problem requiring attention. Let the interim orders continue (for extension of tenure of retiring members of the tribunals). I have communicated to the government to look into it urgently," he said.

The bench said, "You (the government ) keep creating forums to take away work from judiciary but then you do not provide manpower to them. Then their work come to a standstill. Covid problem will have it's own ramifications. But vacancies in tribunals are creating a huge problem and we must express our displeasure at this. This should be attended to urgently."

The bench said the SC has already pushed the High Courts to look into the problem of delays in recommending names for appointment as members of tribunals. "The other problem is that the Collegium and the government are not on the same page which stalls some appointments. But, what about the appointments which have been cleared. Those cannot be allowed to remain hanging."

Senior advocate Parag Tripathi requested the court to order continuance of retiring members till their successors were nominated and their appointments cleared by the government . But, the bench said, if it was done, then the government would not make any fresh appointments.

The SC gave the Center six weeks of time, compared to the four weeks requested by the SG, to return to court by appointment in court.