Ad-hoc Judges in High Court

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court pushed for the appointment of retired judges to battle the pendency of cases in High Courts.

Key Points

  • Supreme Court Suggestions:
    • Guidelines for Appointment of an Ad-hoc Judge: The court orally outlined prospective guidelines for the appointment and functioning of an ad-hoc judge.
    • Pendency Beyond a Certain Limit: If in a particular jurisdiction, the pendency goes beyond a certain limit, say eight or 10 years, the Chief Justice may appoint a certain [retired] judge with expertise in those fields of laws as an ad hoc judge.
      • The term of such a judge could be extendable.
    • Position: The appointment of ad-hoc judges would not be a threat to the services of other judges as the Ad-hoc judges will be treated as the junior most.
    • Selection: The retired judges would be chosen on the basis of their expertise in a particular field of dispute and allowed to retire once the pendency in that zone of law was over.
  • Arguments for Appointing Retired Judges:
    • The retired judges who had handled certain disputes and fields of law for over 15 years could deal with them faster if brought back into harness as ad-hoc judges.
  • Related Constitutional Provisions:
    • The appointment of retired judges was provided for in the Constitution under Article 224A (appointment of retired judges at sittings of High Courts).
    • Under the Article, 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 judge of that court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a judge of the High Court for that State.
  • Reasons For Pendency:
    • The Government is the Biggest Litigant: According to the Economic Survey 2018-19 poorly drafted orders have resulted in contested tax revenues equal to 4.7% of the GDP and it is rising.
    • Less Budgetary Allocation: The budget allocated to the judiciary is between 0.08 and 0.09% of the GDP. Only four countries — Japan, Norway, Australia and Iceland — have a lesser budget allocation and they do not have problems of pendency like India.
    • Practice of Seeking Adjournments: Usually the lower courts seek adjournment ad infinitum.
    • Lack of Assessment: When a new legislation is formed, there is no judicial impact assessment done by the government on how much burden is going to be casted on the judiciary.
      • The probabilities of generating more litigations or requirement of more judges is not taken into account.
    • Delay in Judicial Appointment: Collegium recommendations have been pending with the government for over seven months to a year to get approval in order to fill vacancies in High Courts.
      • The total sanctioned judicial strength in the 25 High Courts is 1,080. However, the present working strength is 661 with 419 vacancies as of March 2021.
      • The government has countered that it's the fault of the Collegium and the High Court for delaying the process.

Way Forward

  • Streamlining the Appointment System: The vacancies must be filled without any unnecessary delay.
    • A proper time frame for the appointment of judges must be laid down and the recommendations must be given in advance.
    • The Constitution of the All India Judicial Services is also an important factor which can definitely help India establish a better judicial system.
  • Use of Technologies: People are becoming more and more aware of their rights and which is why the number of cases filed in court are also increasing.
    • To deal with that judicial officers need to be trained, vacancies for the judges must be filled up expeditiously and in addition the use of technology particularly artificial intelligence must be encouraged.
  • Out of Court Settlement: Resolving every case within the court premises is not mandatory; other possible systems must also be accessed.
    • There is also a need to promote the alternate dispute resolution mechanism for which the arbitration and conciliation act has been amended three times to ensure that people go for commercial litigation mode and sort it out either by mediation, conciliation or arbitration.