The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) member, Justice VK Jain's tenure by another 3 months in wake of vacancies not being filled by the Government.
The NCDRC had filed an application seeking appointments to be made and expressing inability to function optimally due to vacancies in judicial and non-judicial posts. Appearing for the Commission, advocate Parag Tripathi apprised the court that out of the sanctioned strength of 11 judicial and non-judicial members each, there were 3 vacancies in the former and 4 in the latter.
The Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and BR Gavai expressed their dissatisfaction at the manner in which a number of tribunals and fora have been created but their functioning comes to a standstill due to delays in filling up posts.
"It is a perennial problem. Functioning of tribunals has come to a standstill", observed Justice Kaul.
As Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the Court to grant him time to seek further instructions, he did agree that there is a problem which, he informed, had been communicated to the Government and was being looked into.
The Bench, through Justice Kaul, categorically expressed its displeasure at the number of problems being faced by various fora which have been created to reduce the burden on Courts, but are unable to cope due to lack of appointments. Granting time to the Solicitor, to seek instructions, Justice Kaul asserted that the problem needed to be attended to urgently.
"Larger problem lies in these forums with administrative members or expert members or judicial members…You keep creating forums to take away work from the Judiciary but then you do not man them, and then they come to a standstill! The COVID-19 crisis will also come with its own ramifications. It is creating a problem and we must express our displeasure at this! This should be attended to urgently", remarked Justice Kaul.
Taking a more holistic approach towards the problem of posts lying vacant, the Bench alluded to the issue of filling vacancies is Courts. Indicating that the Judiciary is also trying its best to play its role in ensuring appointments are made, Justice Kaul underlined the need for the executive to also take concrete steps towards the same.
"We were trying to push and see to appointments in the High Courts. We were told High Courts are taking time, so we issued directions asking HCs to look into it. The second problem is that the Collegium and Government are not on the same page, because of which a large number of recommendations do not go through. But then what about the appointments that have been cleared? This cannot be allowed to continue", elucidated Justice Kaul.
Advocate Tripathi at this juncture urged the Court to consider allowing an extension of the tenure of members who were scheduled to retire till the time new appointments, for replacement, were made. Justice Kaul explained that the problem then would be that no appointments would be made at all, if such a suggestion was allowed.
However, the tenure of Justice VK Jain, whose term was to end on May 29, was extended thereafter.
The Court told the Solicitor to ensure something constructive is brought to the table by the government and, granting him time for the same, posted the matter after 6 weeks.
Read the Order Here