SC Guidelines for “Appointment of Ad-hoc Judges” in HCs

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What is the News?

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for the appointment of retired judges as ad-hoc judges in High Courts under Article 224A of the Constitution. This has been done to deal with the increasing backlog of cases in High Courts.

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-hodge judge if:

  1. The number of judges’ vacancies is more than 20% of the sanctioned strength
  2. Cases in a particular category are pending for over five years.
  3. More than 10% of pending cases are over five years old or
  4. 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 constituting of only ad-hoc judges can also 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.

Source: Indian Express

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