The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Centre for the delay in filling vacant posts in tribunals across the country and asked if it intended to close them down, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant said if the government doesn’t take urgent action in the matter, it will summon its top officials.

The court made the remark while hearing a petition filed by the Bar council of Madhya Pradesh, challenging the Centre’s order to transfer the jurisdiction of the Debt Recovery Tribunal in Jabalpur district to Lucknow. The order was issued because there was no presiding officer in Jabalpur.

The Supreme Court said the petition will provide it the opportunity to examine why the Centre was not filling up vacant positions in the tribunals.

During the hearing on Friday, the chief justice read out details of the vacant posts in tribunals from the court’s registry, Live Law reported.

“Debt Recovery Tribunals: There is no chairperson or presiding members in 15 places, and these vacancies have been since December 2019,” Ramana said. “National Company Law Tribunal: NCLT president is not there, there are vacancies of nine judicial and 14 technical members.”

Similarly, he pointed to vacancies in the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, the Armed forces Tribunal, the National Green Tribunal, the Railway Claims Tribunal and the Central Excise and Tax Appellate Tribunal.

The chief justice concluded that the posts of 20 presiding officers, 111 technical members and 110 judicial members were vacant across the tribunals.

“We don’t know what is your stand – you want to continue to tribunals or close it down?” Ramana asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. “I have given the names of tribunals and vacancies. Please take a stand and report to court within a week. If not then we will call all top officers across the country to appear before us.”

Mehta told the court that it won’t be necessary to summon officials. “Please give us 10 days [to report to the court],” he added.

The court accepted his submission and set the next date of hearing on August 16.