Appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges – UPSC Prelims

Appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges:
  • The Supreme Court has suggested the appointment of retired judges as ad-hoc judges to deal with the pendency of cases in High Courts.
  • The appointment of ad-hoc judges has been provided in the Constitution under Article 224A (appointment of retired Judges at sittings of High Courts).
  • Under the Article, the Chief Justice of a High Court for any State can request a person to act as a judge of the High Court. The conditions are
  • For this, the prior consent of the president is required.
  • The person should have held the office of judge of that court or of any other High Court.
  • Such a judge is entitled to allowances as determined by the President.
  • He will also enjoy all the jurisdiction, powers and privileges of a judge of that high court. But, he will not otherwise be deemed to be a judge of that high court.
Guidelines: For the appointment of ad hoc judges, the Supreme Court laid down several guidelines. The guidelines are:
  • Appointment of ad-hoc Judges: The Chief Justice of a High Court may initiate the process of recommending an ad-hoc judge if:
    • The number of judges’ vacancies is more than 20% of the sanctioned strength
    • Cases in a particular category are pending for over five years.
    • More than 10% of pending cases are over five years old or
    • The percentage of the rate of disposal is lower than the institution of the cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the court.
  • Appointment Procedure:
    • The appointments can follow the procedure laid down in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for the appointment of judges.
    • Since the nominees have been judges before, the need to refer the matter to the IB or other agencies would not arise, shortening the time period.
    • The Court observed that a period of three months would be sufficient to complete the appointment process.
  • Number of ad-hoc judges
    • The number of ad hoc Judges should be in the range of 2 to 5 in a High Court.
  • Role of Ad-hoc Judges:
    • Since the objective was to clear the backlog, the ad-hoc judges can be assigned more than five-year-old cases. This would also not affect the High Court Chief Justice’s discretion to allot any other cases.
    • A division bench only of ad-hoc judges can also be constituted to hear old cases.
    • Further, the SC barred ad-hoc appointees from performing any other legal work – advisory, arbitration, or appearing in court for clients.
  • SC also stated that ad-hoc appointments cannot be a substitute for regular vacancies. Thus, article 224A can only be used when recommendations for at least 20% of regular vacancies have been made. And now their appointments are awaited.
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