The Madras High Court is contemplating appointment of retired judges of the court as ad-hoc judges to reduce the backlog of 5.84 lakh cases that had got accumulated over the years.
According to sources, the proposal to appoint ad-hoc judges is under active consideration of the court and that Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee will take a call on suitable candidates.
As of now, the working strength of the Madras High Court is 59 as against its sanctioned strength of 75 judges. There are 16 vacancies and three more judges are retiring by September 27. Further, seven more judges of the court are due to retire in 2022.
The High Court has a mounting backlog of 5.22 lakh civil cases and over 61,000 criminal cases. Of the pending cases, 1.09 lakh (18.75%) are between 10 and 20 years old.
Similarly, 1.12 lakh (19.29%) pending cases are between three to five years old. Although the High Court had 1.24 lakh (21.22%) cases that are less than one year old, court officials say it could be because of restricted functioning due to COVID-19.
The present move to appoint ad-hoc judges comes following a Supreme Court verdict delivered on April 20 this year impressing upon the need for the High Courts to “activate” Article 224A, a “dormant provision” of the Constitution.
The constitutional provision empowers the Chief Justice of a High Court to request a retired judge to sit and act as a judge on being paid such allowances as the President may determine. The apex court had batted in favour of utilising the experience of retired judges to clear the backlog since appointment of permanent and additional judges to sanctioned vacancies takes a long time due to delay at various stages of the process.
It had made it clear that ad-hoc judges could be appointed over and above the sanctioned strength of judges and that they should be given only judicial work, and not administrative work, though their pay and allowances should be at par with permanent judges.