Ad-Hoc Judges in High Courts and Continuing Pending Vacancies in High Courts
Recently, the Supreme Court cleared the path for retired judges to be appointed as ad-hoc judges in the High Courts to deal with backlog cases.
The decision to appoint retired High Court judges as ad-hoc judges will help ease the burden on the judiciary. Discuss.
Problems with vacancies in Courts :
● High Courts currently have a sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges and are working with only 661 judges leading to a vacancy of almost 39%.
● The high vacancies in the judiciary increase the workload of existing judges slowing down the justice system.
● Nearly 4 crore cases are pending at various levels of the judiciary. The high vacancy rates also contribute to the high pendency of cases in the judiciary.
Supreme Court verdict :
● Article 224 A of the Constitution provides the provision of appointing ad-hoc judges to the High Courts
● The SC ruled that the Chief Justice of the High Court can initiate the process of recommending a name 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 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.
● The Chief Justice of the High Court should follow the procedure under theMemorandum of Procedure for the appointment of judges.
● The tenure of ad-hoc judges may vary on the basis of need but generally should be between two to three years.
● The number of ad-hoc judges in the High Court should depend on the strength of the High Court and the problem faced by it but for the time being it should be in the range of two to five.
● The ad-hoc judges can be assigned cases more than five years oldbut the Chief Justice of the High Court would have discretion in allotting additional matters to them.
● The ad-hoc judges would be banned from performing any additional legal work such as advisory, arbitration or appearing before the Courts for clients.
● The emoluments and allowances of ad-hoc judges would be on par with a permanent judge minus the pension. They will also be entitled to allowance/perks/perquisites as are available to permanent judges.
Benefits of decision:
● Reduce pendency: The appointment of ad-hoc judges can help reduce the huge backlog of cases that currently exists in High Courts.
● Improve judicial performance: The appointment of additional ad-hoc judges will help improve the performance of the High Courts by increasing the rate of disposal of cases.
The decision to appoint retired High Court Judges as ad-hoc judges will lead to the overburdened judiciary breathing a sigh of relief. However the measure will only have short term effects, there is a need for system reform to reduce the pendency in the justice system and make it more accessible.