GANAPATHI BHAT, AKOLA
The High Courts in India are running short of judges. There are 411 vacancies in 25 High Courts out of the sanctioned strength of 1080 judges. No doubt, the procedural delays add to the crux of the problem. True, even doubling the bench strength in Supreme Court and High Courts may not bring respite to the common man because of people’s tendency to file cases at the drop of a hat. In the absence of alternative disputes redress mechanisms, the issue becomes all the more excruciating. There will be disproportionate number of cases filed on a daily basis; so the problem is chronic. Recently retired chief justice of India S A Bode in the course of a hearing, pushed for retired High Court judges, based on their expertise, as ad-hoc judges for a limited period, in a specific branch of law that has a whopping backlog of cases for a very long time. Justice Bobde was clear that the serving judges’ interests do not clash with the ad-hoc ones, and the latter be treated as the ‘junior-most’ in that High Court’s seniority list. Justice Bobde has not been the only CJI who advocated the ad-hoc judges’ idea. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, during his tenure as CJI, had written three letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the appointment of former judges to dispose of pending cases. Besides, many legal luminaries, time and again, have backed the proposal of the CJIs. The former judges will bring in tremendous amounts of experience and talent, familiarity with the task at hand, and focusing on the job with no worries over interference, promotion or transfer. The Constitution of India, too, is unambiguous over appointing former judges. Article 224A has dealt with the same. Actually, Article 228 has the provision for retired Supreme Court judges as ad-hoc SC judges. Also, the retirement age for HC judges needs to be increased. The HC is the entry point for higher judiciary. Appointments to the HC are done both from the lower judiciary and the bar. Many district judges inching towards their retirement are elevated as HC judges. By the time they settle in their groove and get going, it is time to pack up. Judges with rare brilliance and integrity have missed out on showing their mettle due to the age factor. There will be a sense of urgency in case disposal, too, if a judge’s career is extended.