The proposal to appoint ad hoc judges to fill the huge vacancy gap in high courts has reportedly found support from more than a dozen of the 25 HCs in the country, media reports said. As on April 1, the high courts have a total vacancy of 411 regular judges against the sanctioned judicial strength of 1,080. The working strength in high courts is 669.
“Ad hoc judges should not be appointed in lieu of regular recommendations,” said CJI S A Bobde, heading a special bench of justices S.K. Kaul and Surya Kant.
“There should not be a move for appointment of ad hoc judges unless a Chief Justice has made the recommendations for all the existing vacancies in his or her high court,” senior advocate Vikas Singh submitted. “That is why we want the Supreme Court collegium to be kept in the loop about the ad hoc judges’ appointments,” the CJI said.
The HCs supporting the appointment of ad hoc judges suggested a deviation from the normal procedure followed to make regular appointments of HC judges in which the Central government is involved for providing its inputs on the candidate’s background. This was suggested following inordinate delay by the Centre in forwarding proposals to the Supreme Court collegium for scrutiny.
Among the 14 HCs, however, Madras, Calcutta and Karnataka HCs have said there is no need for ad hoc judges right now, media reports said.
During a hearing on Thursday (April 8) before a bench headed by the CJI, some of the states advised that the proposal for appointing ad hoc judges should be referred to the President directly. Since ad hoc judges would be retired HC judges, it would be a waste of time to let them go through the same procedure which they underwent when they were appointed HC judges.
The submissions were advanced while the bench, also comprising Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice Surya Kant, was hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, Lok Prahari, seeking a direction to have ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court as well as high courts, “as envisaged in the Constitution”.