Supreme Court suggests posting retired judges for clearing backlog

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The Supreme Court of India today suggested selecting ad-hoc judges in high courts to overcome the vacancy dilemma in the judiciary and also minimize the number of pending cases. A bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde made this recommendation yet cleared up that this will certainly not delay routine judicial appointments in high courts. The hearing comes virtually a week after the central government informed Parliament that over 38 percent of sanctioned posts of judges are vacant across the 25 high courts in the nation. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed that 419 posts of a total amount of 1,080 posts remain vacant in India’s high courts. The bench observed that appointment of ad-hoc judges is the “need of the hour” and will certainly be important to manage the “out of hand” pendency in courts.

The SC had asked all 25 high courts to react to a public interest litigation filed by Lucknow-based non-profit organisation, Lok Prahari, requesting for the appointment of retired judges as ad-hoc judges under Article 128 of the Constitution.

Article 128 speaks about “participation of a retired judge” as the judge of the Supreme Court. It states that the Chief Justice of India at any time, with the previous consent of the President of India, may ask for anyone who has actually held the office of a judge of the Supreme Court or the high court to sit and work as a judge of the High court. In a similar way, under Article 224A, retired high court judges can be appointed as ad-hoc judges to HCs. The CJI kept in mind that the provision under Article 224A is not being used.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s advocate, Additional Solicitor General R.S. Suri, expressed disagreement over the bench’s suggestion and stated ad-hoc appointments can be made after vacancies for regular posts are filled. At this, CJI Bobde remarked: “We are not exactly sure just how much cooperation we are obtaining from you concerning that. Yet impromptu judges are not a threat.”

On the delay by the law ministry to settle judicial appointments, the bench observed that a reasonable period ought to be fixed with for the federal government to respond to collegium resolutions. Justice Kaul disclosed there are several names which have actually been cleared by the Supreme Court collegium yet are pending with the ministry for more than 6 months.

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