Ad-hoc judges not to be appointed at expense of regular judges in high courts, rules SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday said the appointment of former judges as ad-hoc judges in high courts would not be at the expense of the regular judges.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, by a judgement, activated “dormant” and rarely-used Article 224A of the Constitution and paved way for appointment of retired high court judges as ad-hoc ones for a period of two to three years to clear the backlog.

“We may, however, hasten to add that the objective is not to appoint ad-hoc judges instead of judges to be appointed to the regular strength of the High Court (apprehension expressed by Mr Vikas Singh, Senior Counsel, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association),” the bench, also comprising Justices SK Kaul and Surya Kant, said in the judgment.

The SCBA President, during the hearing, had voiced the concern saying that the appointment of ad-hoc judges may be done at the expense of regular judges.

Referring to the Article, the verdict said, “The very provision makes it clear that it does not in any way constrain or limit the regular appointment process and consent of the retired judge is sought to sit and act as a judge of the High Court. One may say that this largely a transitory methodology till all the appointment processes are in place, though that may not be the only reason to take recourse to the aforesaid Article.”

“We also have no doubt that we would not like to encourage an environment where Article 224A is sought as panacea for inaction in making recommendations to the regular appointments. In order to prevent such a situation, we are of the view that certain checks and balances must be provided so that Article 224A can be resorted to only on the process having being initiated for filling up of the regular vacancies and awaiting their appointments,” it said and issued the guidelines on initiation of appointment process.

It said there should not be more than 20 percent of the vacancies for which no recommendation has been made for this Article to be resorted to, it said, adding a high court can have ad-hoc judges numbering two to five only.

“We put this figure not out of the blue but looking to the entire scenario where sometimes it may be difficult to find the requisite talent at a particular stage which may have to await some time period. However, certainly, it cannot be countenanced that no or very few recommendations are made for a large number of vacancies by resorting to Article 224A,” it said.