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The Supreme Court 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.


GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Indian Judiciary)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Supreme Court Judgement on Ad Hoc judges
  2. About the pending recommendations
  3. Regarding appointment of Retired judges to fill the vacancies
  4. Ad-hoc Judges

About the Supreme Court Judgement on Ad Hoc judges

  • 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.
  • The CJI said that 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.

Draft plan

  • The remuneration of the ad hoc judges could be drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India, avoiding burden to the State exchequer.
  • 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.

About the pending recommendations

  • The Supreme Court asked the Attorney General of India to enquire with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and make a statement on the decision regarding the appointment of judges recommended by the collegium as the delay was a matter of grave concern.
  • The Supreme Court Bar Association said that there was a need to institutionalise a process for considering advocates practising in the top courts to judgeships in the High Courts.
  • The total sanctioned judicial strength in the 25 High Courts is 1,080. However, the present working strength is 661 with 419 vacancies as on March 1 2021.

Regarding appointment of Retired judges to fill the vacancies

  • The SC bench said that retired judges could be chosen on the basis of their expertise in a particular field of dispute and allowed to retire once the pendency in that zone of law was over.
  • The Bench said retired judges who had handled certain disputes and fields of law for over 15 years could deal with them faster if brought back into harness as ad-hoc judges.
  • The court said the appointment of ad-hoc judges would not be a threat to the services of other judges, as Ad-hoc judges will be treated as the junior most.
Supreme Court for posting retired judges to clear backlog in High Courts

Ad-hoc Judges

  • The appointment of ad-hoc judges was provided for in the Constitution under Article 224A (appointment of retired judges at sittings of High Courts).
  • Ad hoc judges can be appointed in the Supreme Court by “Chief Justice of India” with the prior consent of the President if there is no quorum of judges available to hold and continue the session of the court.
  • Only the persons who are qualified to be appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court can be appointed as ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court (Article 127).
  • Further, as per provisions of Article 128, Chief Justice of India, with the previous consent of the President, request a retired Judge of the Supreme Court High Court, who is duly qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court, to sit and act as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
  • The salary and allowances of such a judge are decided by the president.
  • The retired Judge who sits in such a session of the Supreme Court has all the jurisdiction, powers and privileges of the Judges, but are NOT deemed to be a Judge.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023