New Delhi, Nov 1 (PTI) The Supreme Court Thursday took strong note of tardy recruitment process by high courts and state governments in filling up vacant posts of over 5,000 judicial officers and said instead of leaving the issue to them, it may undertake this exercise.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on its own had taken note of the problem and directed all 24 high courts and 36 states and UTs to apprise it of vacancies and the time frame for filling them up.

The bench on Thursday summoned the registrar generals of 10 high courts including Delhi and Allahabad along with others to apprise it of ongoing recruitment process and issues of infrastructure.

“If any high court cannot do it, we will do it. We will have a centralised system. If you do not want us to do it, then you do it. You will be in our constant gaze. We want judges in place,” said the bench, also comprising Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph.

It perused the reports of registries of various high courts including that of Delhi, Allahabad and Punjab and Haryana. The top court said it has divided all the 24 high courts and 36 states and Union Territories into four categories and would take up the issue of vacancies and infrastructure one by one.

The bench said it would monitor the on-going selection process so that the same is brought to its earliest conclusion.

The court said it would oversee the recruitment drive “to ensure initiation and timely completion of selection processes for vacancies which are yet to be subjected to any such process(es).” The monitoring has been undertaken to “understand the extent of inadequacy of the infrastructure and supporting staff/manpower if all the vacancies are to be filled up and to take steps to ensure that such infrastructure is made available at the earliest by the concerned state governments”, it said.

The bench said firstly, the issue of vacancies in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North-Eastern states would be taken up.

“The Registrars General of the High Courts i.e. High Courts of Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gauhati, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura) will be present in court in person to assist this court. Needless to say the Registrars General are expected to be fully acquainted with all aspects of the ongoing selections, vacancies, etc. so as to be able to answer all such queries that may be put to them by the Court,” it said.

It asked the Registrar Generals to appear in person along with a government officer, authorised by the chief secretary on November 15 to asssist it dealing with the aspect of vacancies and the steps needed to fill them up within a stipulated time period.

It said in states where recruitment is undertaken by the State Public Service Commissions, the Secretary of the commission shall also be associated in the process.

The Registrars General, the Secretaries of the state public service commissions and the government officer will interact the issue of timely appointments and to also draw up a plan to deal with lack of infrastructure and manpower, it said, adding that they will have to consult senior advocate Shyam Divan, who is assisting it as amicus curiae.

During the hearing, the apex court was critical of the Delhi High Court in particular for not filling up the posts in higher judicial services.

“You have overshot your schedule (in filling up the vacancies). Now, you are saying that you will do it by December, 2018. But, you are not making any commitment on when the appointments will be made. You have just stated that the process is expected to be complete by December 2018,” it told lawyer A D N Rao, representing the high court’s registry.

It was also not impressed by the fact that only Additional Registrar of Delhi High Court was present in the court and not the Registrar General.

“Why Additional Registrar? Where is the Registrar General? He should have been here. Is he too busy to assist this court?,” the CJI asked.

The bench said the high courts are not taking the issue of filling up of vacancies in lower and higher judicial services with due “seriousness” and examination schedule and the time line fixed by the apex court were not being adhered to.

The bench, while referring to the recruitment drive of Punjab and Haryana High Court, said the process was started and then examination was cancelled.

It was again started and over 32,000 law graduates applied for around 100 odd vacancies and then the site “crashed and you people went home and did nothing thereafter”.

“The level of indifference is astounding”, the bench said.

It then referred to the lack of infrastructure including the courtrooms for the judicial officers in the country and said that a lot has to be done to deal with it.

“There are around 23,000 posts in lower judiciary. Infrastructure must be able to sustain the judges. Why to appoint so many judges when you do not have the courtrooms to sit,” the bench said.

Earlier, the apex court had on its own taken note of the over 5,000 vacant posts of judicial officers in lower courts and had sought responses from all the high courts and states on vacancies and the time frame within which they can be filled up.

It had said there were 22,036 posts of higher and lower judicial officers in lower courts in the country and, as on date, 5,133 posts are vacant.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.