Kerala Kaumudi Online
Thursday, 06 May 2021 6.49 PM IST

Not in favour of appointing ad hoc judges: Centre at SC


NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it was not in favour of appointing ad hoc judges in high courts until recommendations for all regular appointments were not made by chief justices of the courts concerned.

As on April 1, all 25 high courts in the country had a vacancy of 411 judges -- more than a third of the total positions. There were only 669 judges out of the total sanctioned strength of 1,080. Moreover, there have been no recommendations from high courts for 214 of the 411 vacancies, people familiar with the development said.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation by NGO Lok Prahari that sought appointment of ad hoc judges to tackle the ever-mounting pendency of cases in the high courts.

Conveying its views before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, the government said that the constitutional provision regarding appointment of ad hoc judges should be resorted to only after all the sanctioned vacancies in the 25 high courts are filled.

“The pendency of cases is alarming and some urgent steps are required. The stand of the Union is not adversarial. However, the stand is that let all recommendations be made, vacancies be filled up and then provision under Article 224 A (regarding ad hoc judges) should be used,” additional solicitor general (ASG) R S Suri, appearing for the government, told the bench which included justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant.

“If all vacancies are filled up, there may not be a need at all to have ad hoc judges. That’s the wisdom of the government. There should be no incentives to appoint ad hoc judges in lieu of making regular appointments. Chief justices of high courts should first make recommendations for filling up the sanctioned vacancies,” Suri added.

At this, the top court clarified that the idea behind having temporary judges in the high courts emanated from the necessity of urgently dealing with the massive pendency of cases and that it could not be understood as a substitute for regular appointments.

“Regular appointment will go on but ad hoc judges are there to help high courts in the interregnum till the process of regular appointment is not over… on principle, ad hoc judges can’t be in lieu of regular appointments and that’s why we want to keep the Supreme Court collegium in the loop on these temporary appointments. None of us are of the view that this can be used in lieu of making regular appointments,” the bench said.

It, however, added that certain guidelines will have to be laid down regarding the volume of pendency when ad hoc judges should be appointed in a particular high court and the procedure to be followed while making these appointments.

The bench also asked senior advocate Arvind Datar, who represented the Orissa high court, to convene a meeting with the lawyers of the other high courts and suggest common points about the way forward.

“Convene a conference and collate your points and give us a joint perspective on when the high court chief justices should initiate the process, for how long the tenure of ad hoc judges should be and how many judges should be appointed. Also, tell us about the process of appointment,” the bench told Datar, and adjourned the matter to April 15.

More than 40 lakh cases are pending before the high courts, according to the National Judicial Data Grid.

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