Appointment of former judges as ad hoc judges

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2 – Structure, organization, and functioning of the judiciary.

Synopsis – The SC is Activating the dormant Article 224A of the Constitution. It has issued guidelines for the appointment of ad hoc Judges to deal with the backlog of cases pending in the HC.

Introduction-

  • An article in the Indian Constitution that has been dormant for 58 years has been restored by the Supreme Court, allowing former High Court judges to be appointed as ad hoc judges for two to five years.
  • Under Article 224A of the Constitution, the appointment of former judges as ad hoc judges in High Courts is meant to resolve the mounting case backlog.
  • However, the recourse to Article 224A should not act as an alternative to regular appoints.

Concerning Areas in the judiciary

  • Pendency of around 57 lakh cases in High Court- Five High Courts account for 54% of these cases.
  • Almost 40 percent vacancies in the high courts- There are only 664 judges in high courts, against the sanctioned strength of 1,080, and 416 positions are vacant.
    • Many of the larger high courts are operating at less than half of their sanctioned strength.

Guidelines to appoint ad hoc judges –

The Apex court ruled that the Chief Justice of an HC may initiate the process of recommending a name if the number of judges –

  • Vacancies are more than 20 percent of the sanctioned strength.
  • Cases in a certain category have been pending for more than five years.
  • More than 10 percent of pending cases are over five years old.
  • When the rate of disposal is slower than the rate of the institution of fresh cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the court.

The court stated that the appointments need to follow the process outlined in the Memorandum of Procedure for the appointment of Judges.

Way forward-

  • The process of appointment of retired HC judges as ad hoc judges should not limit the normal appointment process.
  • The appointment should not follow the process of favouritisms- The appointment should be certain that only former judges with experience and expertise are given temporary vacancies.
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