The Supreme Court on Thursday said it could lay down guidelines for appointment of ad hoc judges as a measure to reduce the pendency of cases.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, said: “If in a particular jurisdiction, the pendency goes beyond certain limit, for more than eight years or more than 10 years, then we can recommend the appointment of ad hoc judges who have expertise in the jurisdiction.”
It observed that once pendency crosses 8 or 10 years, the then Chief Justice will automatically recommend the appointment of ad hoc judges. The bench further added that after the collegium approves, the ad hoc judges can sit and their term can be extended.
Additional Solicitor General R.S. Suri submitted that the Centre’s stand was the ad hoc appointments can be made after vacancies for regular posts are filled.
The top court sought response from all High Courts on the possibility of appointing ad hoc judges in line with Article 224A of the Constitution.
The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant, made these observations while hearing a plea by NGO Lok Prahari seeking ad hoc appointments in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
The bench, during the hearing, emphasised that the appointment of additional judges is “need of the hour” and after the pendency is brought under control, the ad hoc judge can be relieved.
However, the Chief Justice clarified that regular judicial appointments cannot be stalled for such ad hoc appointments. He also said these ad hoc judges would be considered junior-most so that they are not treated as a threat in terms of seniority.
Reiterating that it is essential to control pendency before it spirals out of control, he said: “There are civil applications pending in north India for nearly 30 years. There are all kinds of problems High Courts are facing.”
The top court scheduled the matter for further hearing on April 8 and asked all the High Courts to send their suggestions in the meanwhile.