Context: The Supreme Court has suggested a less cumbersome and even “out-of-the-box” thinking, including roping in senior lawyers to act as ad hoc judges in High Courts, to meet the rising tide of pendency.
- Senior advocates in High Courts may not be willing to give up their lucrative legal practices permanently but may be interested in joining the Bench as ad hoc judges under Article 224A of the Constitution for a limited period of may be two years.
- Retired judges who were willing to come back to the Bench as ad hoc judges would bring their experience in dealing with arrears.
Background: In April 2021, the court had identified five situations in which the judiciary could seek the aid of ad hoc judges:
- If the vacancies are more than 20% of the sanctioned strength.
- The cases in a particular category are pending for over five years.
- More than 10% of the backlog of pending cases are over five years old.
- The percentage of the rate of disposal is lower than the institution of the cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the Court.
- Even if there are not many old cases pending, but depending on the jurisdiction, a situation of mounting arrears is likely to arise if the rate of disposal is consistently lower than the rate of filing over a period of a year or more.
The Way Forward
- The ad-hoc judges to be appointed to the High Court are not being appointed for the first time. They have served previously and thus have the expertise to deal with the heavy workload. Therefore, the process for their appointment ought to be simpler than regular appointments.
- If the appointment is not made within a few days of the commendation of the Chief Justices of the High Courts, then meritorious candidates end up losing interest and the justice delivery system faces a huge loss.
Article 224A of Indian Constitution
- Deals with the appointment of ad hoc judges in High Courts.
- It is used rarely
- It says “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 a Judge of that Court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a Judge of the High Court for that State”.
- The Chief Minister will forward his recommendation to the Union Minister of Law and Justice after consultation with the Governor.
Pendency of cases
- Over 59 lakh cases were pending in the High Courts until July 22.
- Allahabad High Court has the highest number of pending cases at over 10 lakh.
- Next are the High Courts of Rajasthan (just over 6 lakh) and Bombay (just under 6 lakh).
Source: The Hindu