Appointment of Judge in SC & HC

The position of an Additional Judge under Article 224 of Indian Constitution

  • The System of appointment of additional Judges was  in vogue when the Constituent Assembly met to frame the Constitution.
  • So long as there is a post of a permanent Judge vacant, no appointment of an additional Judge can be made under Cl. (1) of Article 224.
  • when the term of an additional Judge expires he ceases to be a Judge and therefore, if he is to continue as a Judge, he must be either reappointed as an additional Judge or appointed as a permanent Judge.
  • The acting Judge contemplated in Art. 198 was therefore clearly a temporary Judge.

In S. P. Gupta Vs President of India and others-30/12/82 the matter has been discussed in length-

31.  We then turn to consider what is the position of an additional Judge under the Constitution. This question is of the greatest importance because as against a total sanctioned strength of 308 permanent Judges, there is a total sanctioned strength of as many as 97 additional Judges, which means that the total sanctioned strength of additional Judges is almost one third the total sanctioned strength of permanent Judges. There are a large number of additional Judges in various High Courts whose tenure is short and precarious and their fate should therefore naturally be a matter of serious concern for this Court. The power to appoint an additional. Judge in a High Court is to be found in Cl. (1) of Art. 224 which reads as follows:

“If by reason of any temporary increase in the business of a High Court or by reason of arrears of work. therein, it appears to the President that the number of the Judges of that Court should be for the time being increased, the President may, appoint duly qualified persons to be additional Judges of the Court for such period not, exceeding two years as he may specify.”

Cl. (2) of Art. 224 provides for appointment of an acting Judge during the period when any Judge of a High Court other than the Chief Justice is, by reason of absence or for any other reason, unable to perform the duties of his office or is appointed temporarily as Chief Justice. It is obvious that the tenure of an acting Judge is by its very nature limited because he is appointed to act as a Judge only during the period when the permanent Judge in whose place he is acting is unable to perform the duties of his office and he would therefore cease to be a Judge as soon as the permanent Judge resumes his duties. We are not concerned in these writ petitions with the case of an acting Judge and we need not therefore dwell any further on this clause. Cl. (3) of Art. 224 provides inter alia that no person appointed as an additional Judge shall hold office after attaining. the age of 62 years. Therefore even if an additional Judge has been appointed for a period of two years, he would cease to be a Judge if he attains the age of 62 years prior to the expiration of his term of two years.

32.  It is clear from the provisions of Cl. (1) of Art. 224 that the maximum period for which an additional Judge can be appointed by the President is two years. This provision for appointment of a Judge for a period not exceeding two years seems to be peculiar to this country. There is no such practice of appointing a Judge for a short term either in the United Kingdom or in the United States of America. Even in India. there are no Judges either in the Supreme Court or in the subordinate judiciary whose tenure is so short. It is rather an unusual provision and in order to understand its true scope and effect, it is necessary to trace briefly its historical evolution.

33.  There was no provision in the High Courts Act or the Charter Act, 1861 for appointment of an additional Judge with a restricted tenure in a High Court. It was for the first time in. the Govt. of India Act, 1915 that a provision was enacted for appointment of additional Judges. Sub-sec. (2) of S. 101 provided that each High Court shall consist of the Chief Justice and as many other Judges as His Majesty may think fit to appoint and Cl. (i) of the proviso to that sub-section authorised the Governor General in Council to appoint persons to act as additional Judges of any High Court for such period not exceeding two years as may be required. The additional Judges were to have all the powers of a Judge of the High Court appointed by His Majesty. The Government of India Act, 1915 was replaced by the Government of India Act, 1935 and S. 220 of that Act provided that every High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and such other Judges as His Majesty may from time to time deem it necessary to appoint and there was a proviso to this section which said that the Judges so appointed together with any additional Judges appointed by the Governor General shall at no time exceed in number such maximum number as the Governor-General may by order fix in relation to that Court. Sec. 222 sub-sec. (3) provided for appointment of additional Judges in these. terms:

“Section 222 (3). If by reason of any temporary increase in the business of any High Court or by reason of arrears of work in any such Court it appears to the Governor-General that the number of the Judges of the Court should be for the time being increased, the Governor-General (in his discretion) may, subject to the foregoing provisions of this chapter with respect to them maximum number of Judges, appoint persons duly qualified for appointment as Judges to be additional Judges of the Court for such period not exceeding two years as he may specify.”

The System of appointment of additional Judges was therefore in vogue when the Constituent Assembly met to frame the Constitution. Article 199 of the Draft Constitution was almost in the same terms as sub-sec. (3) of S. 222 of the Government of India Act, 1935. There was also Art. 198 in the Draft Constitution which in Cl. (1) provided for appointment of an acting Chief Justice and in Cl. (2) for appointment of an acting Judge. The provision for appointment of an acting Judge made in Cl (2) of Art. 198 was that when the office of any Judge of a High Court is vacant or when any such Judge is appointed to act temporarily as a Chief Justice or is unable to perform the duties of his office by reason of absence or otherwise, the President may appoint a person duly qualified for appointment as a Judge to act as a Judge of that Court. The acting Judge contemplated by this clause of Art. 198 was therefore clearly a temporary Judge. Now when Arts. 198 and 199 in the Draft Constitution came to be considered in the Constituent Assembly, a number of representations were received suggesting that both these articles should be deleted from the Constitution. It was felt by many that the practice of appointing acting or additional Judges was pernicious and it should be done away with. Tej Bahadur Sapru expressed his firm opposition to this practice of appointing acting or additional Judges in the course of his speech in the Constituent Assembly. He said, decrying this practice in no uncertain terms:

“Additional Judges under the old Constitution were appointed by the Governor-General for a period not exceeding two years. I do not know whether that condition has been reproduced in the proposed Constitution. This prohibition, however, does not apply to acting judges or temporary judges. I think the rule in future should be that any barrister or advocate, who accepts a seat on the Bench, shall be prohibited from resuming practice anywhere on retirement. I would not, however, apply this to temporary judges taken from the services who hold a seat on the Bench for a few months. but I would add that the practice of appointing additional and temporary judges should be definitely given up. When I said at the Round Table Conference that there were acting, additional and temporary judges in India, some of the English lawyers not accustomed to India Law felt rather surprised. I am also of the opinion that temporary or acting judges do greater harm than permanent judges, when after their seat on the Bench for a short period they revert to the Bar. A seat on the Bench gives them a pre-eminence over their colleagues and embarrasses the subordinate judges who were at one time under their control and thus instead of their helping justice they act as a hindrance to free justice. I have very strong feeling in this matter and have during my long experience seen the evil effects, of unchecked resumption of practice by barristers and advocates.”

There were also many others who expressed the same view. The Drafting Committee agreed with this view and expressed the opinion that “it would be better to delete Articles 198 and 199 relating to the appointment of temporary and additional Judges, than to retain those articles without the ban on practice by persons who hold office as additional or temporary judges.” The Drafting Committee took the view that “it was possible to discontinue the system of appointment of temporary and additional Judges in the High Courts altogether by increasing, if necessary, the total number of permanent judges of such Courts.” The Constituent Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Drafting Committee to delete Arts. 198 (2) and 199 of the Draft Constitution providing for appointment of acting and additional Judges in High Courts, with the result that when the Constitution came to be enacted, there was no provision in the Constitution for appointment of acting or additional Judges.

34.  It is clear from the discussions which took place in the Constituent Assembly that the Constitution makers realised that an acting or additional Judge would have to go back to the Bar on the expiration of his term of office and his tenure was of a strictly limited duration. The Constitution makers did not oppose the practice of appointing acting or additional Judge on the ground that on the expiration of his term of office, an acting or additional Judge would have to go back to the Bar, but their anxiety was that after going back to the Bar he would resume his practice and this might lead to abuses and it was this undesirable consequence which they wanted to prevent and that is why they deleted Arts. 198 (2) and 199 with a view to abolishing the practice of appointing acting or additional Judges. The underlying postulate of Articles 198 (2) and 199 was that an acting or additional Judge would come back to the Bar on the expiration of his term and start practice and this was intended to be stopped, but since it was not possible to debar an acting or additional Judge from practising after he came back on the expiration of term, it was decided that the institution of acting and additional Judges should be done away with. There was no assumption by the Constitution makers that an acting or additional Judge would necessarily be made permanent and he would not have to go back to the Bar. On the contrary, going back to the Bar was clearly contemplated and hence Articles 198 (2) and 199 were deleted. The Constitution makers also thought that it would be possible to discontinue the system of appointing acting and additional Judges altogether without any detriment to early disposal of cases, if the total number of permanent Judges was sufficiently increased.

35.  But within six years of the coming into force of the Constitution it was found that the arrears in the High Courts were increasing and it was becoming difficult to bring them under control. There was Art. 224 in the Constitution which provided that the Chief Justice of a High Court may at any time with the previous consent of the President request any retired Judge to sit and act as a Judge of the High Court. but this provision for recalling retired Judges to function on the Bench of a High Court for short periods was found to be neither adequate nor satisfactory and it was of no assistance in reducing the arrears of cases which were mounting-up from year to year. Parliament in its constituent capacity, therefore, decided to introduce two provisions; one for appointment of additional Judges to clear off the arrears and the other for the appointment of acting Judges in temporary vacancies and with that end in view, enacted the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956. This amending Act substituted the existing Art. 224 by a new Art, 224 which read as follows:

“Appointment of additional and acting Judges:

(1) If by reason of any temporary increase in the business of a High Court or by reason of arrears of work therein, it appears to the President that the number of the judges of that Court should be for the time being increased, the President may appoint duly qualified persons to be additional judges of the Court for such period not exceeding two years as he may specify.

(2) When any judge of a High Court other than the Chief Justice is by reason of absence or for any other reason unable to perform the duties of his office or is appointed to act temporarily as Chief Justice, the President may appoint a duly qualified person to act as a Judge of that Court until the permanent judge has resumed his office.

(3) No person appointed as an additional or acting judge of a High Court shall hold office after attaining the age of sixty-two years.

The existing Art. 224 was added as new Art. 224A after the new Art. 224. Cl. (1) of Art. 217 was also simultaneously amended with a view to making provision in regard, to an acting or additional Judge. We have already set out the amended Cl. (1) of Art. 217 in an earlier part of the Judgment and we need not therefore, reproduce it here once again.

36.  The first question which arises for determination under Art. 224 Cl. (1) is as to when can an additional Judge be appointed by the President. This article confers power on the President to appoint an additional Judge, if by reason of any temporary increase in the business of a High Court or by reason of arrears of work therein, it appears to the President that the number of the judges of that Court should be for the time being increased and in that event, he can appoint an additional Judge for such period not exceeding two years as he may specify. It must appear to the President that either by reason of temporary increase in the business of the High Court or by reason of accumulation arrears of work in the High Court, it is necessary to increase the number of the Judges of that Court for the timebeing. The power to appoint an additional Judge cannot therefore be exercised by the President unless there is either temporary increase in the business of the High Court or there is accumulation of arrears of work in the High Court and even when one of these two conditions exists, it is necessary that the President must be further satisfied that it is necessary to make a temporary increasein the number of Judges of that High Court, The words “for the time being” clearly indicate that the increase in the number of judges which the President may make by appointing additional Judges would be temporary with a view to dealing with the temporary increase in the business of the High Court or the arrears of work in the High Court. Article 224, Cl. (1) did not contemplate that the increase in the number of Judges should be for an indefinite duration. The object clearly was that additional Judge should be appointed for a short period in order to dispose of the temporary increase in the business of the High Court and/or to clear off the arrears of pending cases. There is sufficient indication in Cl. (1) of Art. 224 that the appointments of additional Judges were intended to be of short duration and Parliament expected that sufficient number of additional Judges would be appointed so as to dispose of the temporary increase in the work or the arrears of pending cases within a period of two years or thereabouts. That is why Cl. (1) of Article 224 provided that additional Judges, may be appointed for a period not exceeding two years. The underlying idea was that there should be an adequate strength of permanent Judges in each High Court to deal with its normal institutions and so far as the temporary increase in the work or the arrears of pending cases were concerned, additional Judges appointed for a period not exceeding two years should assist in disposing of such work. This was the reason why the Law Commission in its Fourteenth Report stated in paras. 54 and 57 of Chap. 6 in Vol. 1:

“54. The large increase in the volume of annual institutions which has been referred to earlier must now, we think, be taken as a permanent feature. This position accordingly necessitates a thorough revision of existing ideas regarding the number of judges required for each High Court. The strength of the High Courts has been increased from, time to time. In doing this, however, the post-Constitutional developments which have thrown a much heavier burden on the High Courts have, in our view, not been adequately taken into account. To expect the existing number of judges in the various High Courts to deal efficiently with the vastly increased volume of work is, in our opinion, to ask them to attempt the impossible. As pointed out to us by a senior counsel, if there is a congestion on the roads due to an increase in traffic, the remedy is not to blame the traffic but to widen the roads.

The first essential, therefore, is to see that the strength of every High Court is maintained at a level so as to be adequate to dispose of what may be called its normal institutions. The normal strength of a High Court must be fixed on the basis of the average annual institutions of all types of proceedings in a particular High Court during the last three years. This is essential in order to prevent what may be termed the current file of the Court falling into arrears and adding to the pile of old cases. The problem of clearing the arrears can be satisfactorily dealt with only after the normal strength of each Court has been brought up to the level required to cope with its normal institutions. We suggest that the required strength of the High Court of each State should be fixed in consultation with the Chief Justice of that State, and the Chief Justice of India and the strength so fixed should be reviewed at an interval of two or three years. Such a review, will be necessary not only by reason of changing conditions but because the implementation of our recommendations made elsewhere will lead to a quicker disposal of work in the subordinate Courts which in its turn will result in an increase in the work of the High Courts.

37.  We are of the view that the provisions of Article 224 of the Constitution should be availed of and additional judges be appointed for the specific purpose of dealing with these arrears. The number of such additional judges required for each High Court for the purpose of dealing with the arrears will have to be fixed in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of the State High Court after taking into consideration the arrears in the particular Court, their nature and the average disposal of that Court. The number of additional judges to be fixed for this purpose should be such as to enable the arrears to be cleared within a period of two years. The additional judges so appointed should, in our view, be utilised as far as possible exclusively for the purpose of disposing of arrears and not be diverted to the disposal of current work Pari passu with the disposal of the arrears, the permanent strength of the High Court will have to be brought up to and maintained at the required level, care being taken to see that their normal disposal keeps pace with the new institutions and that they are not allowed to develop into arrears. The appointment of additional Judges for the exclusive purpose of dealing with the arrears is, in our view, called for in a large number of High Courts.”

The sentence underlined by us in para 57 clearly shows that according to the Law Commission also the intendment of Cl. (1) of Art. 224 was that sufficient number of additional Judges would be appointed “so as to enable the arrears to be cleared off within a period of two years.” The same note was struck by. P. N. Sapru when he said in the course of the Debates in Rajya Sabha during the discussion of the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Bill; “It is necessary to have additional Judges for the disposal of arrears. These arrears, I hope, represent a temporary situation …………….. once these arrears have been cleared off, it will be possible for us to fix or to determine the permanent strength of our Courts with some degree of assurance.” Now it is obvious that if additional Judges were appointed according to the true intendment of Cl. (1) of Art. 224, they would be temporary Judges appointed for a short duration to clear off the arrears and once the arrears are cleared off, which was expected by Parliament to be achieved within not more than two years they would on the expiration of their term, go back to the Bar or to the District Judicial Service. Their tenure being for a short period limited by the time expected to be taken in clearing off the arrears – such time, in any event, being hopefully not more than two years – they would know that, on the expiration of their term, they would have to go back They would have no right to be appointed or even to be considered for appointment as permanent Judges, because when they accepted appointment as additional Judges under Cl, (1) of Art. 224, they would have known that they were appointed only as temporary Judges for a short period in order to clear off the arrears.

37.  But what happened in practice was that the true intendment and purpose of Cl (1) of Art. 224 was never carried into effect. The Government did not increase the strength of permanent Judges in different High Courts adequately so as to be able to cope with the normal institutions. Though the Law Commission had recommended in its Fourteenth Report that the normal strength of a High Court must be fixed on the basis of average annual institution of all types of proceedings in the High Court during the last three years, this recommendation was not heeded with the result that even the current institutions in many of the High Courts could not be disposed of by the inadequate number of permanent Judges and they started adding to the existing arrears. Of course, it was not only the Government which was responsible for not increasing adequately the strength of permanent Judges but the Chief Justices of many High Courts were also remiss in looking after the interests of their High Courts, inasmuch they too did not ask the Government for increase in the strength of permanent Judges. Wherever the fault may lie and it is not necessary for the purpose of these writ petitions to fix the blame, the consequence was that the arrears in the High Courts started growing menacingly from year to year. The requisite number of additional Judges was also not appointed by the Government though Cl. (1) of Art. 224 clearly contemplated that sufficient number of additional Judges would be appointed in order to clear off the arrears within a period of about two years. The old arrears therefore continued to exist and new arrears were added out of the current file of cases which remained undisposed of by the existing strength of Judges. The strength of additional Judges was not fixed realistically and a much lesser number of additional Judges than required for the purpose of clearing off ,the arrears within a period of about two years were appointed in the different High Courts from time to time with the result that the arrears continued to increase and the need for additional Judges continued to subsist. ‘The’ unfortunate consequence was that the additional Judgeship became a gateway, for entering the cadre of permanent Judges. Whenever a person was appointed as a Judge in a High Court, he would be first appointed as an additional Judge and only when a vacancy occurred in the post of a permanent Judge, he would be confirmed as a permanent Judge in that vacancy in accordance with the seniority amongst the additional Judges. The practice therefore grew up of a person being first appointed as an additional Judge and then being confirmed as a permanent Judge in the same High Court. The Union of India at the instance of the petitioners filed before us a statement showing that in almost all cases barring a negligible few, every person was appointed first as an additional Judge in the High Court and then confirmed as a permanent Judge in the same High Court as soon as a vacancy in the post of a permanent Judge became available to him. The entire object and purpose of the introduction of Cl (1) of Art. 224 was perverted and additional Judges were appointed under this Article not as temporary Judges for a short period who would go back on the expiration of their term as soon as the arrears are cleared off, but as Judges whose tenure, though limited to a period not exceeding two years at the time of each appointment as an additional Judge, would be renewed from time to time until a berth was found for them in the cadre of permanent Judges. By and large, every person entered the High Court judiciary as an additional Judge in the clear expectation that as soon as a vacancy in the post of a permanent Judge became available to him in the High Court he would be confirmed as a permanent Judge and if no such vacancy became available to him until the expiration of his term of office, he would be reappointed as an additional Judge for a further term in the same High Court. Therefore, far from being aware that on the expiration of their term, they would have to go back because they were appointed only as temporary Judges for a short period in order to clear off the arrears – which would have been the position if Cl. (1) of Art. 224 had been implemented according to its true intendment and purpose – the additional Judges entered the High Court judiciary with a legitimate expectation that they would not have to go back on the expiration of their term but they would be either reappointed as additional Judges for a further term or if in the meanwhile, a vacancy in the post of a permanent Judge became available, they would be confirmed as permanent Judges. This expectation which was generated in the minds of additional Judges by reason of the peculiar manner in which Cl. (1) of Art. 224 was operated, cannot now be ignored by the Government and the Government cannot be permitted to say that when the term of an additional Judge expires, the Government can drop him at its sweet will. By reason of the expectation raised in his mind through a practice followed for almost over a quarter of a century, an additional Judge is entitled to be considered for appointment as an additional Judge for a further term on the expiration of his original term and if in the meanwhile, a vacancy in the post of a permanent Judge becomes available to him on the basis of seniority amongst additional Judges, he has a right to be considered for appointment as a permanent Judge in his high Court.

38.  It is clear on a plain reading of Art. 217, Cl. (1) that when an additional Judge is to be appointed, the procedure set out in that article is to be followed, Cl. (1) of Art. 217 provides that “Every Judge” of a High Court shall be appointed after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State land the Chief Justice of the High Court. The expression “Every Judge” must on a plain natural construction include not only a permanent Judge but also an additional Judge. It is significant to note that whenever the Constitution Makers intended to make a reference to a permanent Judge, they did so in clear and explicit term as in Cl (2) of Art. 224. Moreover, there is inherent evidence in Article 217 Cl, (1) itself which shows that the expression “Every Judge” is intended to take in an additional Judge as well. Cl. (1) of Art. 217 says that “Every Judge …………. shall hold office in case of an additional Judge …………as provided in Art. 224 which clearly suggest that the case of an additional Judge is covered by the opening words “Every Judge”. We may also consider what would be the consequence of construing the word “Every Judge” as meaning only a permanent Judge. On that construction, Cl. (1) of Art. 217 will not apply in relation to appointment of an additional Judge and it would be open to the Central Government under Article 224. Cl. (1) to appoint an additional Judge without consulting any of the constitutional functionary specified in Cl. (1) of Art. 217. This could never have been intended by the Constitution Makers, who made such elaborate provisions in the Constitution for safeguarding the independence of the judiciary. We must therefore, hold that no additional Judge can be appointed without complying with the requirement of cl. (1) of Art. 217.

39.  Now, when the term of an additional Judge expires he ceases to be a Judge and therefore, if he is to continue as a Judge, he must be either reappointed as an additional Judge or appointed as a permanent Judge. In either case, cl. (1) of Art. 217 would operate and no reappointment as an additional Judge or appointment as a permanent Judge can be made without going through the procedure set out in Art. 217 cl. (1). Of course, an additional Judge has a right to be considered for such reappointment or appointment as the case may be, and the Central Government cannot be heard to say that the additional Judge need not be considered. The additional Judge cannot just be dropped without consideration. The name of the additional Judge would have to go through the procedure of cl. (1) Art. 217 and after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Central Government would have to decide whether or not to reappoint him as an additional Judge or to appoint him as a permanent Judge. If the procedure for appointment of a Judge followed as a result of a practice memorandum issued by the Central Government is that the proposal for appointment of a Judge may ordinarily originate from the Chief Justice of the High Court and may then be sent to the Governor of the State and thereafter to the Chief Justice of India through the Justice Ministry for their respective opinions before a decision can be taken by the Central Government whether or not to appoint the person proposed, the name of the additional Judge must be sent-up by the Chief Justice of the High Court with his recommendation whether he should be reappointed as an additional Judge or appointed as a permanent Judge or not and it must go up to the Central Government with the opinions of the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of the High Court, so that the Central Government may, after considering such opinions, make-up its mind on the question of reappointment or appointment as the case may be. But this is the only right possessed by the Additional Judge. The additional Judge is not entitled to contend that he must automatically and without any further consideration be appointed as an additional Judge for a further term or as a permanent Judge. He has to go through the process of cl. (1) of Art. 217 and to concede to him the right to be appointed either as an additional Judge for a further term or as a permanent Judge would be to fly in the face of Art. 217 cl. (1). If the additional Judge is entitled to be appointed without anything more, why should the process of consultation be gone through in regard to his appointment? Would consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of the High Court not be reduced to a farce? It would be a mockery of consultation with such high constitutional dignitaries. There can, therefore, be no doubt that an additional Judge is not entitled as a matter of right to be appointed as an additional Judge for a further term on the expiration of his original term or as a permanent Judge. The only right he has to be considered for such appointment and this right also belongs to him not because cl. (1) of Art. 224 confers such right upon him, but because of the peculiar manner in which cl. (1) of Art. 224 has been operated all these years.

40.  But the question then arises what are the factors which can legitimately be taken into account by the Central Government in deciding whether or not to reappoint an additional Judge for a further term or to appoint him as a permanent Judge. The argument of the petitioners was that an additional Judge is not on probation. He is as much a Judge as a permanent Judge with the same jurisdiction and the same powers and to treat him as if he were on probation would not only detract from his status and dignity but also affect his independence by making his continuance as a Judge dependent on the good opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of India. We find it difficult to accept this argument in the face of the clear and unambiguous language of cl. (1) of Art. 217. There are no limitations in the language of cl, (1) of Art. 217 as to what factors shall be considered and what factors shall not be, but having regard to the object and purpose of that provision namely, appointment of a High Court Judge, it is obvious that fitness and suitability, physical, intellectual and moral, would be the governing considerations to be taken into account in deciding the question of appointment. Now, when, on the expiration of the term of an additional Judge, the Central Government is again called upon to consider whether or not he should be re-appointed as an additional Judge or appointed as a permanent Judge, the Central Government would have to apply its mind to the question whether such additional Judge possesses the requisite fitness and suitability for being reappointed or appointed as the case may be. Public interest requires that only such person should be appointed as a Judge who is physically, intellectually and morally fit and suitable to be appointed as a Judge and it would be contrary to public weal to appoint a person, who does not possess the requisite fitness and suitability. The Central Government would therefore be under a constitutional obligation to consider whether the additional Judge, whose term has expired, is fit and suitable to be reappointed as an additional Judge or appointed as a permanent Judge. How can cl. (1) of Art. 217 or Art. 224 be so interpreted as to require the Central Government to reappoint an additional Judge for a further term or to appoint him as permanent Judge, even if at the time of such reappointment or appointment as the case may be, he is physically, intellectually or morally unfit or unsuitable to be appointed as a Judge. Of course, at the time when the question of reappointment of an additional Judge for a further term or his appointment as a permanent Judge comes up before the Central Government for consideration, the additional Judge would have two weighty circumstances in his favour; one, that he has experience as a Judge for one term and the other, that it would not be desirable to send an additional Judge back to the Bar. But even with these weighty circumstances in his favour, he would have to satisfy the test of fitness and suitability, physical, intellectual and moral, before the Central Government can, consistently with its constitutional obligation and in public interest, decide to reappoint him as an Additional judge or appoint, him as a permanent Judge. It is true that the fitness and suitability of the additional Judge must have been considered by the Central Government at the time of his original appointment, but when the question again comes up for consideration on the expiration of his term, the Central Government has to consider afresh, in the light of the material then available, as to whether he possesses the requisite fitness and suitability for being appointed as a Judge. It would not be right to say that merely because the fitness and suitability of the additional Judge is required to be considered again for the purpose of deciding whether he should be reappointed for a further term or appointed as a permanent Judge, it would amount to treating him as if he were on probation. An additional Judge is certainly not on, probation in the sense that his service cannot be terminated before the expiration of his term, unlike a probationer who can be sent out any time during the period of probation. It would also not be open to the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Governor of the State or the Chief Justice of India to sit in judgment over the quality of the work turned out by the additional Judge during his term, because that would be essentially an appellate function which can be discharged only by the court entitled to hear appeals from the decisions of the additional Judge. But every other consideration which bears on the physical, intellectual and moral fitness and suitability of the additional Judge can and must be considered and if the Central Government finds, after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of India that the additional Judge is not fit and suitable for being appointed as a Judge, the Central Government may decide not to appoint him as an additional Judge for a further term or as a permanent Judge. So long as the case of the additional Judge is considered by the Central Government for reappointment or appointment as the case may be, the decision of the Central Government cannot be questioned except on the ground that it was reached without full and effective consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of India or that was based on irrelevant considerations.

41.  There was also one other argument advanced by the learned Attorney General and it was that where an additional Judge is not appointed for a further term or as a permanent judge, he cannot challenge the decision of the Central Government not to appoint him, because Cl. (1) of Art. 217 prescribes the procedure to be followed only where an appointment is made and it has no application where an appointment is not made. This argument is, in our opinion, without force and must be rejected. An additional Judge, as we have pointed out, has a right to be considered for appointment as an additional Judge for a further term or in case there is a vacancy in a permanent post then for appointment as a permanent Judge, and he must therefore, be considered by the Government for such reappointment or appointment as the case may be, and a decision must be taken in regard to him after consultation with Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of India, and if it is found that there was no consultation with any of these three constitutional functionaries before the decision was taken by the Central Government not to appoint him or the decision of the Central Government is based on irrelevant grounds, it would not be, consideration by the Central Government as required by Cl, (1) of Art. 217 and he would, therefore, be entitled to challenge the decision of the Central Government which is based on what may be called ‘non-consideration in law’ and to require the Central Government to reconsider his case in accordance with Cl. (1) of Art. 217. This consequence would follow only because an Additional Judge has a right to be considered for appointment as an additional Judge for a further term or as a permanent Judge. No person, who is proposed for initial appointment as a Judge would be entitled to complain against the decision of the Central Government not to appoint him, because he would have no right to be considered for appointment as a Judge.

42.  We must also deal with the argument of the petitioners that so long as there is a post of a permanent Judge vacant, no appointment of an additional Judge can be made under Cl. (1) of Article 224. It is clear from the language of Cl. (1) of Art. 224 that it is, only where permanent Judges of a High Court are unable to cope with the current institutions and the increased business or the arrears of pending cases and it is found necessary for the purpose of disposing of the increased business or the arrears of pending cases to increase the strength of the Judges of the High Court for the time being that additional Judges can be appointed. Clause (1) of Article 224 contemplates appointment of additional Judges to augment the strength of the existing Judges. It must therefore follow logically that there must be full strength of existing Judges before additional Judges can be appointed and so long as any post of existing Judges is not filled up, there, can be no question of appointing additional Judges to augment their strength. When there is a vacancy in the post of a permanent Judge, it must first be filled up before any additional Judge can be appointed under Cl. (1) of Art. 224. It is therefore, necessary that the Central Government must periodically review the strength of permanent Judges in each High Court, so that there is a proper and adequate strength for the purpose of dealing with the normal institutions. Since there are large arrears pending almost in every High Court and it is not humanly possible to dispose of these arrears within a measurable distance of time even by appointment of additional Judges, we think it necessary that instead of appointing additional Judges for the purpose of disposing of the arrears, it would be desirable to increase the strength of permanent Judges because the arrears have come to stay and we do not think it is possible to wipe them out for a long period of time. We are glad that towards the close of the arguments Mr. Mridul submitted to us a statement on behalf of the Central Government assuring us that:

“The Union Government has decided to increase the number of posts of permanent Judges in the various High Courts keeping in view the load of work, the guidelines prescribed and other relevant considerations. In fact in 1980 itself, on the basis of institution, disposal and arrears of cases and the guidelines prescribed, the Governments of seven States where the problem was more acute, had been addressed to consider augmentation of the Judge strengths of their High Courts. It has been decided that where necessary the guidelines prescribed will be suitably relaxed by taking into account local circumstances, the trend of litigation and any other special or relevant factors that may need consideration. The Union Government will take up the matter with the various State Governments so that after consulting the Chief Justices of the High Courts, they expeditiously send proposals for the conversion of a substantial number of posts of Additional Judges into those of Permanent Judges.”

We hope and trust that the Central Government will soon take the necessary steps to increase realistically the strength of permanent Judges in each High Court.


  • The System of appointment of additional Judges was  in vogue when the Constituent Assembly met to frame the Constitution.

  • So long as there is a post of a permanent Judge vacant, no appointment of an additional Judge can be made under Cl. (1) of Article 224.

  • when the term of an additional Judge expires he ceases to be a Judge and therefore, if he is to continue as a Judge, he must be either reappointed as an additional Judge or appointed as a permanent Judge.