The Supreme Court Thursday came down heavily on the West Bengal government for its inability to give the exact time needed for making available the requisite courtrooms and residences for judges to be appointed in lower courts in the state.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on its own had taken note of over 5,000 vacancies for judicial officers and directed all the 24 high courts and 36 states and UTs to apprise it of remedial measures.
The bench, which also comprised Justices Kurian Joseph and S K Kaul, directed the West Bengal government to submit the deadlines for completion of construction of 422 courtrooms and 630 residential units for subordinate judges and also asked the Chief Secretary and the Finance Secretary to appear before it on December 6.
"Where do our judges stay? What is the budgetary allocation for the judiciary in the state," the bench asked, adding that it was "shocked and surprised" by the apathy of the state government in providing the requisite infrastructure for the lower courts and their judges.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who is assisting the court as the amicus curiae, referred to the affidavit of the Chief Secretary and said that 75 court halls and 39 residential units were under construction.
There was a requirement for 422 courtrooms and 630 residences for judges in trial court in the state, Divan said.
The bench said "the lethargy and unwillingness" on the part of the state government was writ large as despite the directions, no response has come as to when the under construction projects would conclude and when the other projects would commence.
"The Chief Secretary is putting the cart before the horse. If you don't know the date, how would you make a start," the bench said.
The bench, however, took note of the fact that the state government has said that there was no deficiency of funds for constructing the courtrooms and residences for the judges, but rapped it for coming out with the specific responses.
"We want the government of West Bengal to tell the Supreme Court as to when these courtrooms and residences would be completed and nobody seems to be knowing anything. Judges have to be appointed and residences have to be built for them... what is the budgetary allocation of the state for the judiciary," the bench asked.
The bench was also critical of the Delhi High Court and the city government.
It rapped the High Court registry for the delay in appointment of judges in lower judiciary in the national capital.
"The judges have to be appointed by the High Court. Why you people are not doing this. The manpower and infrastructure have to be provided by the Delhi Government and the high court must appoint judges," the bench said.
"Fill up the vacant posts. If infrastructure is not there, it does not mean that you (HC) will not appoint judges," it said, making clear that the High Court would examine the proposal of the Delhi government on construction of 167 courtrooms in Delhi for judicial officers.
It said the apex court would ensure that the Delhi government provides the infrastructure for trial courts and their judges.
It said the government will have to provide courtrooms for 167 judges who would start functioning from July 2020.
It asked the Delhi High Court and the city government to give their representations on or before December 12 on completion of the courtrooms and the residences for judges in the national capital and fixed the case a day after for hearing.
Earlier, the apex court had said "Enough is enough" while expressing displeasure over tardy approach of different high courts and state governments in filling up vacant posts for judges in lowers courts and providing proper infrastructure for them.
It had taken stock of the situation in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North-Eastern states.
The Delhi High Court Registry and AAP-led city government were also at the receiving end when they told the bench that there were 201 vacancies in lower judiciary in the national capital, but it had advertised for 100 posts in two separate recruitment processes.
The bench, however, had expressed satisfaction with progress made in Maharashtra, Goa, Chhattisgarh and some north-eastern states.
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 story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)