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SC seeks update on Jammu HC complex amid concerns over CAT bench delays and vacancies

SC seeks update on Jammu HC complex amid concerns over CAT bench delays and vacancies

In a recent session, the Supreme Court delved into the developments surrounding the construction of a new high court complex in Jammu, seeking updates from the Central Government. Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, who laid the foundation stone in June, prompted the inquiry.

The scrutiny occurred when the judicial panel consisting of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia were hearing of a petition addressing vacancies and case backlogs in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) benches in Jammu and Srinagar.

Representing the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati provided the court with a revised document outlining the status of CAT bench vacancies and pending cases in the two cities. Discussions touched upon the infrastructure for the tribunal, with Bhati indicating that the state's Counsel had relevant instructions. Progress in Srinagar was acknowledged, but in Jammu, challenges in land identification were cited. Bhati revealed an agreement to relocate the Jammu bench to the existing high court building once vacated.

Justice Kaul expressed concern over the lack of progress in constructing the proposed building, citing a potential fund problem. Bhati sought permission to submit an affidavit, which was granted by the bench.

While acknowledging the updated status report, the bench emphasized the need for further action, underscoring the interconnection of issues and instructing that the Jammu bench's progress be recorded. The matter is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 next year.

During the hearing, the ASG referred to the court's September 25 order, highlighting over 16,000 pending cases before the two CAT benches. The latest status report indicated a slight reduction, with approximately 15,000 cases currently pending. The September order raised concerns about sanctioned strength and staff positions at the CAT benches, noting stop-gap measures and directing the Staff Selection Commission to fill positions by March 2024.

While progress was noted for Srinagar's infrastructure, Jammu faced stagnation in this regard.

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