High Court – Composition, Appointment of Judges and Terms of Office (India)

The High Court is the highest judicial body in a State. Article 214 of the Constitution provides that there shall be a High Court for each State.

Often there may be a common High Court for two or more than two States. There are 24 High Courts in the country. Three High Courts have jurisdiction over more than one State. Among the Union Territories, Delhi alone has a high court of its own.

Though the High Courts are the parts of single and integrated judicial system, yet they are completely independent judicial institutions.

The Supreme Court has no direct administrative control over them, nor are they in any way controlled by either the State Legislatures or the Executives. Each High Court is a Court of Record and has power of such a court, including the power to punish for its contempt.

Composition:

Each High Court consists of a Chief Justice and such other judges as the President may. From time to time, appoint. Unlike the Supreme Court there is no fixed minimum number of judges for the High Courts. It varies from Court to Court and from State to State.

Appointment of Judges:

The Chief Justice of a High Court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the State. While appointing other judges of the High Court, the President consults the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court. The additional judges are often appointed in order to dispose of the arrears cases.

Such appointments are temporary and are terminable after disposal of arrears cases. To be eligible for the appointment of a Judge of a High Court the person should have the following qualifications:-

(a) He must be a citizen of India,

(b) He must have held a judicial office in India for 10 years, or

(c) He must have practiced as an advocate of a High Court for 10 years.

Commenting on the qualifications required to be a judge of a High Court, L). D. 13asu writes, “the glaring anomaly that becomes evident when the above qualifications are compared with those for judgeship of the Supreme Court is that a distinguished jurist is fit for appointment to the Supreme Court but he has no place in the High Court which also is in the main, an appellate Tribunal dealing with the principles of law at the highest level in the State”. A person appointed as a judge of a High Court must-take an oath of office in a prescribed form before the Governor of the Slate concerned.

Terms of Office

A Judge of a High Court holds office until ha attains the age of 62 years. Originally the Constitution had fixed the age requirement of a High Court Judge at 60. But the Fifteenth Constitutional Amendment Act, 1963 raised it from 60 to 62 years. It became necessary as competent persons were reluctant to serve as judges because of early retirement.

However, a judge may resign his office earlier by writing to the President. He may be removed from his office by the President when a resolution to that effect is passed by the Parliament and presented to the President. Such a resolution must be supported by a majority of the total membership of each House and not less than two-thirds of the total members of each House present and voting in that session.

This procedure is similar to the procedure through which a judge of the Supreme Court is removed. Thus the service conditions of the High Court judges are identical with those of the Supreme Court judges.

A judge of a High Court may be transferred to another High Court by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice of India. It is provided in order to enable the President to send a competent and most suited judge to a particular part of India where his services are needed in the national interest. Further, it facilitates better justice and keeps the Court above narrow and regional considerations.

A Judge of the High Court is prohibited from practice in Courts or before any authority in India, except the Supreme Court and High Courts of which he has not been a judge.

Thus in appointment, security, salary, pensions and other privileges, the judges of the High Court are equipped with same safeguards as the judges of the Supreme Court. This greatly ensures their impartiality and independence.