April 9, 2021 1:14:08 am
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will lay down the rules for appointment of retired judges as ad hoc judges in High Courts to tackle pendency but clarified that it should not be a reason to not make regular appointments.
“We want to lay down the circumstances in which an ad hoc judges appointment has to be initiated,” said Chief Justice S A Bobde, heading a three-judge bench with Justices S K Kaul and Surya Kant, seeking to link it to the number of pending cases.
The bench said that if the pendency in a High Court under a specific branch such as criminal appeal increases beyond a certain point, which has to be scientifically determined, the Chief Justice may initiate appointment of an ad hoc judge to deal with that particular jurisdiction or subject but added that it will hear suggestions before laying down the rules.
“Everyone has agreed that there must be some principle for activating the process of appointment of ad hoc Judges. It has to be based on pendency…What we want your suggestions on is what is the level of pendency beyond which process should be initiated and what shall be the tenure. So we can provide a benchmark so CJs can be alerted…We need to come up with something scientific to prevent arbitrariness. It will have to be decided what judges to be appointed and what will be the tenure,” said the CJI.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said that no CJ has the right to suggest unless he makes recommendations for all the vacancies. “It can’t be used as a tool.”
“You are right in principle that the method of appointment should not be used in lieu of appointment of regular judges. This is not to state that he will stop recommending regular judges. That’s why we want to keep the Supreme Court Collegium in loop,” the CJI responded.
The court adjourned the matter to April 14 and asked Senior Advocate Arvind Datar to hold a meeting of all those concerned and give inputs.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General R S Suri said the legislative intent is that the appointment of ad hoc judges should be done after regular appointments are completed.
But the bench did not seem to agree. “Objective is for work to not stop. Idea is they keep working during time we fill the vacancies,” remarked Justice Kaul.
The CJI also pointed out that though the procedure for recruitment can be simplified as those shortlisted are retired judges and have already been part of the court system, the process of going through the Collegium and government cannot be entirely done away with.
“His continued fitness and ability to sit in court and decide cases has to be looked into by someone no? How will the President (who is the final signing authority) do this,” asked the CJI.
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