Article 224A: SC Requests Status Report from Centre on Appointment of Ad Hoc Judges in High Courts

Supreme Court Law Insider

Prerna Gala

Published on: September 20, 2022 at 19:38 IST

With regard to the appointment of ad hoc judges in High Courts pursuant to Article 224A of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has requested a status report from the Union Government.

A former High Court judge may be asked to “sit and act as a judge” of the High Court in accordance with Article 224A, with the prior approval of the President. The provision has only very infrequently been used in India’s judicial history.

The Supreme Court underlined the importance of appointing ad-hoc judges and released a series of rules in April 2021 after noting the rise in vacancies in High Courts.

The Instructions were given in a PIL that was submitted by the “Lok Prahari” group.

A bench made up of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, AS Oka, and Vikram Nath requested a status report from the Union on any recommendations for ad hoc judges by September 14, 2022.

The bench also debated whether to loosen the requirement that there must be 20% or more vacancies in order to start the process of appointing ad hoc judges, given that some High Courts have numerous vacancies and are also struggling with backlogs in a number of particular areas.

This component was also requested to be addressed by the Attorney General. It has been scheduled for September 27.

The following is the order that the bench made:

“Learned Attorney General submits that he needs sometime to file status report as to whether any recommendation on ad-hoc judges have been made and the fate thereof.”

“Another aspect, with experience, we are finding is that though we have put a bar of not more than 20% vacancies for making recommendation for ad-hoc judges, the fact remains that some of the Courts where there are large number of vacancies are also troubled with arrears and in some specific subjects.”

“We request learned Attorney General to give a thought to this process as to how this particular aspect can be addressed. List on 27th September, 2022 on the top of the Board.”

The Supreme Court established five trigger points in its ruling from April 2021 that can start the procedure under Article 224A. The Trigger Point can occur in a number of different situations, including:

  1. If there are more than 20% of the sanctioned number of vacancies.
  2. The cases in a specific category have been unresolved for more than five years.
  3. Over 10% of the backlog of open cases date back more than five years.
  4. The percentage of the rate of disposition is lower than the institution of the cases, either generally in the Court or in a particular subject matter.

Even if there aren’t many old cases still pending, depending on the jurisdiction, if the rate of disposal is consistently lower than the rate of filing over the course of a year or more, a situation of mounting arrears is likely to develop.

The Court further highlighted that ad hoc appointments could not take the place of routine ones. The goal is not to replace judges who will be appointed to the High Court’s regular strength with ad hoc judges.

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