Process for appointing ad-hoc judges in High Courts is required to be simolified: Supreme Court

Process for appointing ad-hoc judges in High Courts is required to be simolified: Supreme Court

On December 8, a Supreme Court bench comprised of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Vikram Nath, and AS Oka opined that the current process for appointing ad-hoc judges to High Courts under Article 224A of the Constitution is cumbersome and should be simplified. The court also suggested that eminent lawyers be appointed to such positions and requested advice from Attorney General of India (AG) R Venkataramani and Senior Advocate Arvind Datar on how to simplify the appointment process.

"There could be a practice of lawyer of eminence working as judges on ad hoc basis for two years or so and then no practice in that High Court... Mr Attorney I feel the process is very cumbersome. Why do not the AG and Mr Arvind Datar work together and give us some suggestions,"

Lok Prahari had filed the petition, requesting that Article 224A be invoked to appoint ad hoc judges to address rising arrears in High Courts. The Supreme Court gave the go-ahead in April last year for the appointment of ad hoc judges to High Courts under Article 224A of the Constitution. The Court had ruled that a vacancy of more than 20% of the High Court's sanctioned strength would be a trigger for the concerned Chief Justice to start such appointments.

Other considerations for the appointment of ad hoc judges, according to the judgement, would be:
•    Cases in a specific category have been pending for more than five years;
•    More than 10% of pending cases are more than five years old.
•    The percentage of cases resolved is lower than the percentage of cases instituted, either in a specific subject matter or generally in the Court;
•    Even if there aren't many old cases pending, a situation of mounting arrears is likely to arise if the rate of disposal is consistently lower than the rate of filing over a year or more.

However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the process will not be used in place of regular appointments. Because judges are already appointed by warrant, the opportunity to refer the matter to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) or other agencies would not arise in such cases, which would shorten the time taken, the Court had noted.

The Court stated on Thursday that the case will be listed early if both counsel are able to agree on a methodology to make the process simpler, citing Senior Advocates' willingness to be appointed as ad hoc judges in High Courts in other states.

Case Title: Lok Prahari through its General Secretary SN Shukla vs Union of India

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