No fresh recruitment in Judiciary leads to vacancies, stalls promotion at Jr level

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Legal issues delay framing of Recruitment Rules

Nishikant Khajuria
JAMMU, June 8: Due to unprecedented delay in framing of new Recruitment Rules for the Judicial officers after abrogation of Article 370 and re-organization of J&K State into two Union Territories, a number of posts of Civil Judges are lying vacant while promotion of several junior Judges has been stalled.
According to the official sources, around 88 posts of Civil Judges at Junior division as well the Senior division are lying vacant in Jammu and Kashmir with the result people are suffering as the District Judiciary is backbone of the Judicial system and first place for the justice seekers.
While elaborating, sources said that since the reorganization of the J&K State into the two Union Territories, no new recruitment of Munsiffs (Civil Judge in Junior Division) has been undertaken by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir as well as by the High Court because no rules are in place for their appointment in the J&K and Ladakh.
Even as the cadre of Judicial Officers is common for the common High Court of Jammu and Kashmlr and Ladakh, the two Union Territories have different rules for the appointment of Gazetted officers. In the case of UT of J&K, Jammu Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC) has the power to conduct the recruitment of Gazetted officers whereas the Central UPSC has the power to appoint Gazetted officer for the UT of Ladakh.
Because of this legal issue, rules could not be framed by the Government for the recruitment of Munsiffs with the result no fresh recruitment of Judicial officers was made in the last five years. Hence several courts of Magistrates/ Civil Judge ( both Junior and Senior Division) are lying vacant and functioning on the charge basis thus hampering the normal working of the Justice delivery system at the lowest level.
It may be recalled that during the year 2019 , 54 posts of Munsiffs were advertised by the J&K PSC but later on the advertisement was withdrawn because of the absence of the recruitment rules in view of the abrogation of Art 370 and the bifurcation of State into the two Union Territories.
In the month of October-November 2022, the High Court promoted at least 22 Sub Judges /Civil Judges in Senior division to the rank of District Judges resulting into 22 positions of Senior Division Civil Judges falling vacant. Under the Judicial Service Recruitment Rules, the Sr Division Judges/Sub Judges cannot be appointed directly and only mechanism by virtue of which these posts can be filled is the promotion of Junior Division Judges (Munsiffs).
However, the High Court of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh is not in a position to promote the Munsiffs as Sub Judges because there is already shortage of Civil Judges at Junior division in absence of fresh recruitment for the last five years.
The situation has led to stagnation for the Munsiffs whose promotion is due, but are still performing the job of Civil Judge at Junior Division level from the last 10 years thus badly affecting morale of the officers.
Pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court of India, in a case of All India Judges Association v/s Union of India and others, had observed that for effective and efficient functioning and for enhancing the caliber and capacity of the Judges, there should be timely promotions of the officers as any delay in it amounts to the stagnation and affects the morale of the officers.
According to the sources, at least 25 posts of Sub Judges are lying vacant and being run on charge basis. On condition of anonymity, some Civil Judges in Junior division opined that instead of running 25 posts of Sub Judge on charge basis, equal number of Munsiffs should be promoted to the Senior Division and given the charge of Junior posts as there is no bar on the same while the vice versa is not permissible under rules.
By this, they added, the stagnation and frustration being faced by the Junior Division officer can be negated to some extent as besides promotion they would get some perks also.
Pertinent to mention that after promotion of 22 Sub-Judges in October 2022, seven to eight District Judges have superannuated since then and Govt of Jammu and Kashmir has also sanctioned three District and Sessions Court in the Union Territory of J&K. With this, around 10-12 posts of District Judges have fallen vacant and are being presently run on charge basis.
When contacted, Secretary Law, Achal Sethi admitted delay in framing the recruitment rules and explained that there were some legal issues as the erstwhile J&K State was re-organized into two Union Territories and got separate agencies for recruitment at Gazetted level whereas the judicial cadre was not bifurcated.
“The High Court of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh recently drafted the recruitment rules, which were examined by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and sent back with some observation. The reply of High Court on the MHA observations has also been received by the Government and the rules are likely to be framed soon for the recruitment of Judicial officers,” he added.