The Supreme Court on Monday said it was “wholly unacceptable” that 5133 posts of judicial officers out of the total of 22036 posts in district courts across the country were lying vacant.

Taking suo motu action, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul used its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution and asked the 24 high courts of the country to inform if the time taken up for filling up posts can be shortened.

The court sought detailed information by October 31 on various points, including the dates on which the recruitment process for “Higher Judicial Service” and “Lower Judicial Service” had been initiated and were expected to be completed.

“Whether the time expected to be taken to complete the on-going process/processes can be shortened and the process/processes completed before the time-schedule,” the bench asked.

The top court appointed four advocates as amicus curiae to assist it in adjudicating upon the issue.

It also sought to know whether the infrastructure and manpower available in the different states was adequate to fill all the posts.

The court noted that the communication exchanged with the Registry of different High Courts of the country indicated that there are a total of 22036 posts in the cadre of Higher Judicial Service (cadre of District Judges/Additional District Judges/Class-I Grade/Grade-I) as well as in the cadre of Civil Judge Senior Division/Civil Judge Junior Division.

“This constitutes the total workforce of the district and subordinate judiciary in the country. 5133 posts out of the total of 22036 posts as on date are vacant. The recruitment process to fill up 4180 posts are presently underway. A total of 1324 posts out of the 5133 vacancies are yet to be subjected to any recruitment process,” the court said.

“The existence of vacancies is wholly unacceptable. The Registry of this court is, therefore, directed to register a suo motu writ petition,” the bench added.

The court appointed senior advocate Shyam Divan to assist as amicus curiae for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North-Eastern states. 

It appointed K V Vishwanathan to assist on behalf of states of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala, 

Also Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria for the states of Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar and Punjab and Haryana and 

And advocate Gaurav Agrawal to render assistance on behalf of Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

The court posted the matter for hearing on November 1.