The Centre told the Supreme Court that as per Article 224A of the Constitution, ad hoc appointments of additional judges in High Courts could only be made after regular vacancies in the judiciary are filled.
Additional Solicitor General of India RS Suri made this contention before a bench comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justices S K Kaul, and Surya Kant.
The Bench had previously sought the Centre’s opinion on naming ad hoc High Court judges to address the issue of mounting case arrears. In this regard, Learned ASG Suri stated,
‘‘The stand of the Union Government is not adversarial. Pendency is a menace which requires to be tackled.’’
However, he added that ad-hoc judges can be appointed only after regular appointment. The Court, on the other hand, did not agree with the ASG’s position.
Hon’ble Justice Kaul observed that there will be no problem if all vacancies are filled and ad hoc judges should act until current vacancies are filled. The Bench also discussed the possibility of raising the age of HC judges.
Chief Justice S.A Bobde asked whether there is anything in Article 224A that indicates that ad hoc judges may be appointed after regular positions have been filled.
The ASG responded by saying filling of vacancies would eliminate the need of appointing ad hoc judges, and there is no incentive to appoint regular judges.
Justice Kaul stated that ad hoc judges should be assigned to the High Court to deal with situations where there are insufficient judges.
When the ASG Suri began to clarify the appointment procedure, CJI Bobde stated that they should submit their application via affidavit.
These remarks were made while the Bench was hearing a petition filed by the NGO Lok Prahari, which tried to invoke Article 224A of the Constitution to allow former High Court judges to handle pending cases.