What Supreme Court thinks about post-retirement appointment of judges at tribunals

PTI New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 27, 2019, 10.08 PM(IST)

File photo of the Supreme Court. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which is hearing as many as 18 petitions relating to challenges to the laws governing quasi-judicial tribunals, said that retired High Court judges are usually unwilling to man these panels as there was inordinate delay in appointments.

The Supreme Court Wednesday said there is a valid “strong viewpoint” that post-retirement appointment of judges in tribunals is a “scar” on the “independence of the judiciary”. 

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which is hearing as many as 18 petitions relating to challenges to the laws governing quasi-judicial tribunals, said that retired High Court judges are usually unwilling to man these panels as there was an inordinate delay in appointments.

“There is a viewpoint that post-retirement appointment is itself a scar on judicial independence of the judiciary. How do you handle that,” the bench said, adding, “This is a valid and strong point”. Dealing with the issue of tribunalisation of the judiciary, the bench, which also included Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said that it has been done to lessen the burden of the high courts and the situation of vacancies there was very grim.

The top court ruled the huge vacancies in high courts and said even the high court collegiums are not recommending the names for the appointments. “Let us not blame the government for every problem,” it said.

“Look at the state of our high courts in terms of the number of judges. The whole idea of transferring the jurisdiction (to tribunals) was to lighten the burden,” it said. It said the total sanctioned post of judges in high courts are 1,089.

“How many are actually holding office. 397 is the number of vacancies. 264 are yet to be even recommended by high courts. When will they come? When will they be processed? When will the appointments be made? And by that time, how many more judges will have retired,” the bench quipped. It said that with this truncated strength, the high courts cannot take up more work.

“In some high courts, writ petitions are listed four weeks after filing. Here, in the Supreme Court, the matter comes up after four days and there is still mentioned,” it said. In one of the high courts, a bail application takes four weeks to be heard, it said, adding that the government has been setting up National Company Law Tribunals everywhere, but there are no presiding officers and members to man them.