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Supreme Court says it will lay down guidelines for appointment of ad-hoc judges in High Courts

The bench heard the arguments on interpretation of the Article 224A (Appointment of retired Judges at sittings of High Courts) of the Constitution of India.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday said it is going to lay down guidelines for the appointment of ad-hoc judges in High Courts which are going to be of flexible nature and sought the response of the High Courts across the country for the same. 

The Special Bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Surya Kant was hearing the PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahari through its general secretary which had sought directions for the appointment of ad-hoc judges to deal with the problem of long pendency of cases. 

The bench heard the arguments on interpretation of the Article 224A (Appointment of retired Judges at sittings of High Courts) of the Constitution of India. 

Thereafter, the bench held that they are going to lay down the guidelines for the appointment of ad-hoc judges in the High Court which are going to be of flexible nature. The bench also sought the suggestion of all the High Courts in the country regarding the guidelines for appointment of ad-hoc judges. Following this, the Court deferred the hearing on the matter till April 8.  

CJI Bobde made the opening remark, “There are High Courts where pendency of cases are gone beyond control. There are Criminal Appeals in the High Courts of North India which are pending for about more than 30 years.”

CJI Bobde was of the view that the experienced retired Judges can dispose of the pending cases in an expeditious manner. He also added that appointment of High Court Judges on Ad-Hoc basis is neither the idea of Supreme Court Judges nor it is the idea of the petitioner S.N. Shukla rather it is the provision given in the Constitution of India. 

He said, “If in a particular jurisdiction on a particular subject, if the cases are pending for more than 8 or 10 years. Then the Chief Justice of that High Court will appoint an Ad-Hoc Judge who has the expertise on that subject for a fixed period of tenure to take up those case expeditiously.”

He also added, “These Ad-hoc appointment will not be contradiction of the to the pending appointment of regular Judges.” “This is the need of the hour,” he said. 

Thereafter, Sr. Adv. Basant R made his submission regarding the interpretation Article 224A and pointed out that words used in the Article are “Appointment”, “Sit and act as a Judge” & “Previous Consent”.  He said that over emphasis should not be given to the word “Appointment” and it should be read with the body of the Article where it says that the Ad-hoc judges will only sit and act as a judge and therefore the collegium has no role to play regarding the appointment of Ad-hoc judges and this power should only be exercised by the Chief Justice of the High Court by taking prior consent of the President to make appointment of the Ad-Hoc Judges.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul replied that “Previous Consent” in the Article means the Consent of President and the President acts on the aid and advice of the Government and the Government acts according to the advice of the Collegium in matters of the appointment of the Judges.

CJI Bobde added, “In cases of appointment of Judges the consent comes to us. The president office does not have the special knowledge as to who is the fit person to be appointed as the Judge, they consider themselves to be unsuitable for this. Therefore it comes to the Collegium anyway because we have certain experience.”

Thereafter, Sr. Adv. Vikas Singh made his submissions that the Article 224A come under Chapter V of the Constitution of India and it starts with the word “Notwithstanding anything in this chapter” therefore it is a non-ostensible clause and hence the procedure mentioned in the other Article in Chapter V of the Constitution regarding the regular appointment of the Judges of the High Courts shall not apply to Article 224A. The power to appoint the Ad-hoc judges should be vested with the Chief Justices of the High Courts and not the collegium. He went on to say that the Chief Justice of the High Courts are responsible people and they know the situation in their jurisdiction very well therefore they will be the right people to appoint Ad-Hoc Judges.

CJI Bobde thereafter directed Sr. Adv. Basant R and Sr. Adv. Vikas Singh to make a note of their argument and submit it to the court before next hearing.

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Article 224A – A Appointment of retired Judges at sittings of High Courts Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Chief Justice of a High Court for any State may at any time, with the previous consent of the President, request any person who has held the office of Judge of that Court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a Judge of the High Court for that State, and every such person so requested shall, while so sitting and acting, be entitled to such allowances as the President may by order determine and have all the jurisdiction, powers and privileges of, but shall not otherwise be deemed to be, a Judge of that High Court: Provided that nothing in this article shall be deemed to require any such person as aforesaid to sit and act as a Judge of that High Court unless he consents so to do. 

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