The Central Government has defended in the Supreme Court the appointment of two judges for a short period of time stating that Additional Judges, who are typically appointed for a period no less than two years, can hold office even for a day.
The government made the argument in an affidavit filed in context of a PIL to explain the appointment of two Additional Judges in the Rajasthan High Court for less than two years.
Justice Virendra Kumar Mathur has been appointed for a period of 1 year 3 months while Justice Jhala will hold office for 1 year 1 month 17 days.
Petition Questioning Short Term Appointment
In its affidavit, the Department of Justice has noted that under Clause (1) of Article 224, the appointment of Additional Judge can be for a maximum of two years but it can go lower than that as well.
The PIL filed by advocate Sunil Samdaria has challenged the duo’s appointment, asking the reason for their appointment when they would not be able to complete even one full term as Additional Judges.
According to Samdaria the HC is currently overburdened with cases that have been pending for over 10 years and therefore such short-term appointments were improper and had to be quashed, a position he has argued is backed by a Constitution Bench ruling of the apex court.
The petitioner has further highlighted that the two had been appointed by the government when they were not even in service as they had both retired as judicial officers.
Samdaria’s petition also claimed that the two were neither eligible nor qualified to be appointed.
According to the Department of Justice however, the appointment was not irregular since as per rules, the candidates need to be in the ‘judicial office’ at the time of the vacancy arising which was the case as the two vacancies has arisen in 2014 when the duo was in service.
The department’s affidavit also pointed out that the issue was coming up since the HC had delayed the recommendations for the Additional Judges. Although the vacancies had come up in October 2014, the government said, the HC had sent the necessary proposal to the Chief Justice of India only in July 2016.
The appointments were notified by the government in May 2017 after the SC Collegium cleared their names.
The petition is being heard by a bench led by Justice AK Sikri which had issued a notice to the government in October, after which the affidavit was filed. The case comes up for its next hearing this week.
In case the apex court does not intervene, Justice Jhala is set to retire in July 2 this year and Justice Mathur will do so on September 1 after they turn 62.