The Supreme Court on Friday expressed its displeasure at the Centre for not filling up various vacancies in tribunals across the country calling it a “sorry state of affairs”.
Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, heading a two-judge bench, said vacancies of 20 presiding officers, 110 judicial members and 111 technical members were pending across the country in various tribunals. “We don’t know what is the stand as you want to continue to tribunals or close it down,” he told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The bench, also comprising Justice Surya Kant, asked the Centre to take a stand in a week, saying, “If not then we will call all top officers across the country to appear before us”.
The court was hearing petitions against the Central notification transferring the jurisdiction of Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), Jabalpur to DRT, Lucknow as there is no presiding officer in the former, and another seeking setting up of the Goods and Services Appellate Tribunal.
The CJI said the court “registry provided some information on 15 tribunals which have no chairperson or members therein. There are tribunals where there are vacancies of presiding officers. In Telecom Disputes Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) no one is there. In National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) also, judicial and administrative vacancies are there”.
The SG agreed with the court regarding the DRT Jabalpur jurisdiction issue and said if a tribunal is not there in an area, it cannot be entrusted to any other tribunal located somewhere else. The Lucknow suggestion was mistakenly given but bona fide, he said. Mehta also referred to pendency of some cases as reason for non-appointment to tribunals.
But the CJI said, “We have our own suspicions that some lobbies may be working to not fill these vacancies.”
Justice Surya Kant said, “You cannot make the tribunals defunct… If you want it to continue, then fill the vacancies.”
Responding to the court’s statement that it will summon officers if the Centre does not take a stand in a week’s time, Mehta said “that will not be needed” and requested 10 days’ time.
Granting the request, the court fixed August 16 to hear the matter next.