Supreme Court paves way for appointment of ad-hoc Judges in High Courts[Read Judgement]

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As lakhs of cases remain pending in 25 high courts across India, the Supreme Court Tuesday paved the way for the appointment of retired judges as ad-hoc judges to clear the judicial backlog.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde laid down guidelines for the appointment of ad hoc judges in high courts under Article 224A of the Constitution to deal with judicial pendency of specific categories of cases. 

Those appointed as ad-hoc judges would get emoluments and allowances on a par with a permanent Judge of that court minus the pension, the top court ordered. Ad hoc judges will be entitled to allowance/perks/perquisites as available to permanent/additional Judge(s), it added.

Their tenure may vary on the basis of the need but generally it should be for two to three years, it said.

The top court asked the Union Law Ministry to act in tandem with high courts and submit a progress report to it in four months when it will take up the matter again.

Noting that India faced a “docket explosion” where it’s difficult to adjudicate on disputes within a reasonable period of time, the top court said, “This crisis situation must be tackled. Some innovation is always the rule of the game. We are faced with the ground reality of almost 40 per cent vacancies remaining in the regular appointments over the last two years”.

The order came on a PIL filed by ‘Lok Prahari’ seeking appointment of ad-hoc judges to clear pendency of cases.

The Chief Justice of a High Court may initiate the process of recommending a name if

  • the judges’ vacancies is more than 20 per cent of the sanctioned strength,
  • cases in a particular category are pending for more than five years,
  • more than 10 per cent of pending cases are more than five years old,
  • the rate of disposal is lower than the filing of the cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the court, the top court said.

The Chief Justice of such a high court should prepare a panel of judges after a personal interaction with the judge concerned and taking their consent, it added.

The ad hoc judges’ appointments would follow the procedure laid down in the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges and since the nominees were former judges their names need not be sent to the IB or other agencies for clearance, it said.

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