NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over the large number of pending cases in high courts, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set the ball rolling for appointment of ad-hoc judges in HCs to clear pendency.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said, “We have a docket explosion in our country and that it is difficult for adjudication to take place within a reasonable period of time. This crisis situation must be tackled. Some innovation is always the rule of the game.”
The bench said the process to appoint ad-hoc judges can be initiated if vacancies are more than 20% of the sanctioned strength of the high court and cases in a particular category are pending for over five years.
The court clarified that ad-hoc appointments cannot be a substitute for regular ones. The number of ad-hoc judges should be between two and five in a high court, it added.
Citing data from the National Judicial Data Grid, the court said five high courts Allahabad, Punjab & Haryana, Madras, Bombay, and Rajasthan are responsible for 54% of the pendency of over 57,51,312 cases.
“The Madras High Court has among the highest arrears in the country of 5.8 lakh cases despite having fewer vacancies than most other high courts (7%). This does not take away from the requirement of appointing ad-hoc Judges but supports the view that even if the existing vacancies are few, a situation may arise requiring the expertise of experienced Judges to be appointed as ad hoc Judges,” the court held.
The court also laid down timelines for the government take a call on appointment of judges. The bench said that once the Centre receives inputs of state government and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), it would be desirable that the file be forwarded to the Supreme Court Collegium within 8 to 12 weeks.
Once the Collegium reiterates a proposal, the government should notify the appointment within 3-4 weeks.
Timeline for appointing HC judges
The Supreme Court also specified a timeline of 3-4 weeks for appointing HC judges if its Collegium reiterates a name.