A Special Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday directed counsels to hold meetings and come up with suggestions as to when, how and for how long the appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges has to be done.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Surya Kant heard the PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahari regarding the appointment of retired judges as Ad-Hoc judges in all the Courts in order to avoid pendency of cases.
The Bench expressed its concern over the increasing number of pending cases and number of vacancies of Judges in the various High Courts. The bench held that a trigger point shall be identified to appoint Ad-Hoc Judges based on the pendency of the cases.
Additional Solicitor General R.G. Suri, appearing on behalf of the Central Government, submitted the Centre is of the view that first the regular appointment of the Judges must be done and after that the appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges must be made.
To which, Justice Kaul opposed by saying, “Show us the provision in the Constitution where it is written that first the regular appointment must be done and then only Ad-Hoc appointment must be done.”
The bench further expressed that the concept of the Ad-Hoc Judges was incorporated in the Constitution so that the judicial work must keep going on till the time the regular appointment of Judges takes place.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing as an Amicus Curiae in the matter, submitted that the Memorandum of Procedure talks about the appointment of Judges and the same procedure is for the Ad-Hoc Judges, for them it should not be the same process as that of the regular Judges.
CJI Bobde replied saying the procedure can be shortened but no other procedure can be adopted. “We understand the importance of the collegiums. The ministry employs the IB to check the antecedents… character and suitability has to be looked into, I agree that they have already served as judges but the continued competence needs to be looked into.”
The bench on the point of salary and allowances said, “We have thought on this point and discussed but this will be from the consolidated fund of India and it will not impact the Central and State Government’s exchequer…Salaries will be the same question as the allowances.”
The CJI noted that circumstances in which an appointment of an Ad-Hoc Judge is done, has to be to be defined. “It maybe when the pendency falls below a certain percentage with the number of filings then the appointment can be initiated,” CJI added.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh suggested to the bench that first the Chief Justice of the High Courts must send the name of the Judges for regular appointment as it takes a long time to process their names and, in the meanwhile, Chief Justice shall give names for the appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges.
The bench agreed with the suggestion of Singh and appreciated it by saying that this will prevent arbitrariness. The bench directed Datar to convene a meeting of all stakeholders and to listen to their suggestion on the following issues:-
a. When the Chief Justice of High Courts should appoint Ad-Hoc Judges.
b. What will be the tenure of Ad-Hoc Judges?
c. How many Ad-Hoc Judges can be appointed in a particular High Court?
d. What should be the procedure for the appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges?
The bench has adjourned the matter for further hearing on April 15.