The Supreme Court said today it will pass an order on whether a retired judicial officer can be appointed as an additional judge of a high court. The apex court is dealing with the issue of whether a person who is sought to be appointed as an additional judge should be a judicial officer at the time when vacancy arises or at the time of the notification for appointment. A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said it will pass order on the issue which arose after the appointment of two additional judges Justice Virendra Kumar Mathur and Justice Ram Chandra Singh Jhala was challenged on the ground that they were appointed for less than the stipulated period of two years, and that they had already retired from judicial service before being appointed. The top court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Sunil Samdaria, who questioned the appointments cleared by Supreme Court collegium. He has contended that when the government notified the appointment of the two judges last year, they had retired from judicial service. The petitioner said, according to earlier orders of the apex court, a person who is to be appointed as additional judge of a high court needs to be in judicial service. Raising questions, Samdaria said they were neither eligible nor qualified because they had ceased to hold 'judicial office' when the notification for their fresh appointment came. Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh justified the appointment of the two additional judges for a short-term and said that persons have to hold the 'judicial office' at the time when vacancy arose. He said both the judges were in service, when the vacancies had arisen in 2014. Singh contended that the only requirement for the appointment is that the person concerned should be a judicial officer and within the age limit of 58 years and six months on the date the vacancy arises in a high court. He said the appointment of an additional judge is made for a maximum of two years at one stretch but it can be done for any period less than the stipluated period. "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," the Centre said. While Justice Mathur has been been appointed for one year three months, Justice Jhala was appointed for a period of one year one month and 17 days. Samdaria had contended that the high courts have huge pendency of cases, and according to the apex court's earlier order, short-term appointment of additional judges was improper and had to be quashed. However, the Centre defended the notification on the ground that the appointees have to hold a judicial office when a vacancy arose.
The two were in service when the vacancies had arisen in 2014, it said. The Centre said the recommendation for appointment of additional judges was delayed by the high court. It had sent the proposal in July 2016 and the government notifed the appointment in May 2017. Justice Jhala is set to retire in July 2 this year while Justice Mathur will demit office on September 1 after they turn 62. Both were posted in the Rajasthan High Court.
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