Ad hoc judges should not be appointed in lieu of regular recommendations, says Supreme Court


‘Chief Justices of State HCs should only opt for ad hoc judges if their efforts to fill the judicial vacancies in their respective High Courts have hit a wall even as pendency has reached the red zone,’ it says

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed that a plan to appoint retired judges on an ad hoc basis to shear pendency in High Courts should not become an excuse to stop or further delay the appointment process of regular judges.

As on April 1, the High Courts have a total vacancy of 411 regular judges against the sanctioned judicial strength of 1,080. The working strength in the High Courts is 669.

For one, Chief Justices of State High Courts should only opt for ad hoc judges if their efforts to fill the judicial vacancies in their respective High Courts have hit a wall even as pendency has reached the red zone.

“Ad hoc judges should not be appointed in lieu of regular recommendations,” Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, heading a Special Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and Surya Kant, noted.

“Yes, there should not be a move for appointment of ad hoc judges unless a Chief Justice has made the recommendations for all the existing vacancies in his or her High Court,” senior advocate Vikas Singh submitted.

“That is why we want the Supreme Court Collegium to be kept in the loop about the ad hoc judges’ appointments,” the CJI said.

Chief Justice Bobde said the court would draw up a procedure and circumstances for appointment of ad hoc judges. The CJI said the central reason or principle for appointment of ad hoc judges in High Courts should be pendency.

“The procedure should explain when a Chief Justice can initiate the appointment of ad hoc judge; what should be the threshold of pendency for such appointments; for how long should such ad hoc judges continue; what should be their allowances, etc,” Chief Justice Bobde remarked.

Draft plan

He said the remuneration of the ad hoc judges could be drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India, avoiding burden to the State exchequer. The Bench asked senior members of the Bar appearing for various High Courts, Additional Solicitor General R.S. Suri and senior advocates Arvind Datar and R. Basant, among other Bar leaders, to convene a meeting and prepare a draft plan on the procedure.

Justice Kaul said very old cases, dating back to 15 or 20 years, could be allocated to the ad hoc judges.

Appreciation for govt.

Meanwhile, the Bench noted its appreciation of the government’s clearance of Collegium recommendations to the High Courts which have been pending for over six months.

On March 23, the Bench had asked the government to come clear on the status of 55 recommendations made by the Collegium for judicial appointments to various High Courts six months to nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

Forty-four of the pending recommendations were made to fill vacancies in Calcutta, Madhya Pradesh, Gauhati, Rajasthan and Punjab High Courts. Every one of these recommendations had been pending with the government for over seven months to a year.

Recommendations of names made by the Collegium to the Delhi High Court had been pending for seven months.

“This is a matter of grave concern… When do you propose to take a decision?” the Bench had addressed Attorney General K.K. Venugopal.

In the previous hearing, the court had asked Mr. Venugopal to enquire with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and make a statement on April 8 about their status.

The Bench had even handed over to Mr. Venugopal a chart containing the details of the 55 recommendations.

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