Additional Judges Can Be Appointed Even for a Day: Govt's Logic in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that this institution must act as one and abide by the principles of judicial discipline, propriety and consistency.

New Delhi: At a time when high courts across the country grapple with huge shortage of judges, appointment of two Additional Judges in the Rajasthan High Court for a short-term has been justified by the central government in the Supreme Court.

According to the government's logic, Additional Judges, who are usually appointed for a period not less than two years, can hold office even for a day.

In its affidavit, the Department of Justice has argued that since the appointment of an Additional Judge is for a maximum of two years in one go, the appointment can be done for any period less than this.

“The period prescribed by Clause (1) of Article 224 for appointment of Additional Judge is put at a maximum of two years but that does not mean that in every case the appointment must be for two years. The appointment may be for a period less than two years,” stated the affidavit.

The government's affidavit has been submitted to explain appointment of Justice Virendra Kumar Mathur and Justice Ram Chandra Singh Jhala as Additional Judges in the Rajasthan High Court for less than two years.

While Justice Mathur has been been appointed for short period of 1 year 3 months, Justice Jhala will hold office for 1 year 1 month 17 days.

A PIL filed by advocate Sunil Samdaria has questioned the duo's appointment, contending why these two had to be picked up when they could not even complete one full term as Additional Judges.

Samdaria has also pointed out that the HC was overburdened with cases pending for over 10 years and hence, even according to a Constitution Bench ruling of the apex court, such a short-term appointment was improper and had to be quashed.

The petition pointed out that when the government notified the appointment of the two judges last year, they were not even in service and had retired as judicial officers.

Raising questions on the expediency to appoint these two as Additional Judges even after their retirement from subordinate courts, Samdaria said they were neither eligible nor qualified to be appointed because they had seized to hold 'judicial office' when the notification came.

However, the Department of Justice has sought to defend the notification on the argument that the persons have to hold the 'judicial office' when the vacancy arose and in this case, the two vacancies has arisen in 2014 when the duo was in service.

Besides, the affidavit lamented that issue had come up only because the HC delayed in making recommendation for the Additional Judges. Despite the vacancies arising in October 2014, the government said, the HC sent proposal to the Chief Justice of India in July 2016.

The government notified the appointments in May 2017 after the SC Collegium cleared their names.

A bench led by Justice AK Sikri had issued a notice to the government in October, following which the affidavit has been filed.

The case will come up for hearing on Monday and it will interesting to see if the apex court, on the judicial side, will eventually examine the decision taken by its Collegium in recommending the appointment of the two judges.

If the apex court does not intervene, Justice Jhala is to retire in July 2 this year while Justice Mathur will demit office on September 1 after they turn 62.