WITH FRESH appointments of judges at the Supreme Court and high courts stuck at the government level, Chief Justice of India Justice T S Thakur said the services of retired judges would now be used in high courts on an ad hoc basis as an “exceptional and extraordinary” measure to reduce pendency of cases.
“A decision has been taken in the joint conference to appoint ad hoc judges under Article 224-A of the Constitution. The resolution has been passed unanimously after the chief ministers endorsed it,” said Justice Thakur while enumerating the decisions taken at the joint conference of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts.
Under Article 224-A, a retired judge can be requested to hold the office of a judge in certain circumstances.
While describing the appointment of ad hoc judges as a “significant” decision, the CJI regretted the government’s delay in clearing proposals from the Collegium for appointments at the higher judiciary.
“We have done our duty.have exercised due diligence and sent all the files to the Law Ministry. They blame the judiciary for pendency but pendency cannot go with a magic wand. You must have more judges but if it is not happening what we do,” he said.
On the delay in processing files sent by the Collegium, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said the process is such and that it would take some time. “There are various steps involved and we are doing what we can. We cannot work day and night only for this,” said Gowda. He added that the criticism was unnecessary because 145 appointments have been cleared by the government after the NJAC verdict.
But Justice Thakur remained unimpressed with the Law Minister’s answer. He pointed out that of the 145 appointments, more than 90 were such where additional judges, already working in a high court, were made permanent while the number of fresh appointments were meagre.
“Our problem is that there is no system to track where the proposals are pending. We have no clue why it is taking so long. At present, 169 proposals are pending for verification and clearance. We don’t how much time will be taken by the government,” said Justice Thakur.
Underlining the “extraordinary situation and urgency” of the situation, the CJI said that the judiciary needs 250-300 judges immediately while the rest could be decided later. “If proposals are stuck at the Intelligence Bureau, why cannot the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office direct the IB to complete the process expeditiously? It is an extraordinary situation where lakhs of people are languishing in jails while high courts function with half the strength of judges,” he added.
Justice Thakur maintained that the Collegium had no qualms about the government not agreeing with some names for judges and that if those names are returned with concrete objections, the Collegium would make new recommendations. “Do whatever you have to do but do it quickly,” he said.
On finalising the new Memorandum of Procedure that would guide future appointments to the higher judiciary, the CJI said he would revert to the government next week.