Faced with a “natural delay”, the Supreme Court prepared Thursday to set up a mechanism for the appointment of ad hoc judges in high courts in order to reduce the backlog of cases that afflict the judiciary.
The higher court referring to the “natural deadline” possibly meant the retirement of Chief Justice SA Bobde on April 23.
The Supreme Court asked a group of senior lawyers representing different high courts to hold a virtual conference between them to deliberate and prepare within a week’s time a roadmap on four main points that could trigger the appointment process as , what could be the pending percentage, how many ad hoc judges could be appointed, how many could be the mandate of ad hoc judges and what should be the procedure.
A special bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant said: “We don’t have much time. We are faced with a natural deadline. We cannot hear every point because it will take enough time. It would be better if you all had a virtual conference among yourselves, deliberated on the issues and submitted a report by next Wednesday. “
He listed the issue for a new hearing on April 15.
The bench heard a plea filed by an NGO Lok Prahari, calling for the appointment of additional judges in higher courts under Article 224A of the Constitution in order to reduce the length of cases.
Article 224-A of the Constitution provides that “… the President of the High Court of any State may at any time, with the prior consent of the President, request from any person who has served as a judge of this Court or any other High Court to sit and act as a judge of the High Court for that state “.
The bench told lead lawyers Arvind Dattar, R Basant, Vikas Singh and Ravindra Srivastava representing different high courts and helping the tribunal to formulate a mechanism on the issue to hold the conference and formulate a roadmap to be finalized by the tribunal.
“We want to tell you that we want to establish guidelines based on a scientific mechanism whereby, if the duration of cases exceeds a certain percentage or number, when the difference between the elimination rate compared to the filing rate of cases exceeds a certain benchmark, then the ad hoc judges process will be triggered, ”said the bench.
He added that the term of these ad hoc judges and the number of ad hoc judges to be appointed will be proportional to the percentage of the period of suspension.
“The more ad hoc judges appointed for a longer term will be in particular branches like civil or criminal cases or any other branch,” said the bench, adding that ordinary cases will be dealt with by ordinary judges while that ad hoc judges will work in specific areas.
The bench said a mark like red or yellow should be made to indicate that a stay of cases if it turns red will signal the high court chief justice to begin the appointment process.
“The Chief Justice of the High Court will have a panel of retired judges from whom they can be recommended for appointment as ad hoc judges. It should be something scientific to avoid arbitrariness,” he said.
Additional Solicitor General RS Suri, appearing for the center, said that while the government views the matter as non-adversarial, its position on the matter is that the ad hoc appointment of judges under section 224A should only be carried out only after the regular appointment of judges.
This is the legislative intention, he said, adding that if all the regular vacancies are filled, it will not be necessary to appoint ad hoc judges.
The bench asked Mr. Suri to file an affidavit with the central government by next week.
Lead lawyer Arvind Dattar said there should be no normal procedure for appointing ad hoc judges like the one adopted for ordinary judges.
CJI Bobde said the president is the appointing authority for judges and no decision can be made unless the Supreme Court College recommends the names to the Ministry of Law and Justice, which in turn forwards the names to the president.
“There is no other way, it is the only way,” said the bench.
The bench said he understands the importance of the college and the ministry to do a background check and to that end, the Intelligence Office is deployed.
“Competence, aptitude and morals are normally examined. It cannot be said that this is unjustified. It cannot be that a person who has worked for years as a judge does not have to follow the same path to be appointed judge ad hoc. Otherwise, how will the President know his suitability?
Mr Dattar said that there were other aspects like salary and allowances that had to be determined for the ad hoc judges.
The judiciary said it had thought about it and came to a conclusion since the salary and allowances are paid to judges from the consolidated funds, there will be no charge to the public treasury.
The CJI said that even if the pension will not be there, but the salary and allowances will be there, otherwise no one will be interested.
The tribunal said efforts should be made to ensure that appointments are made within a reasonable time or that the ground for appointing ad hoc judges is rejected.
The CJI had previously stated that Article 224A of the Constitution is not used and that the court can set guidelines for the appointment of ad hoc judges, if the duration of the appointment exceeds a certain limit.