The three judge bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Vineet Saran and Justice S Ravindra Bhat, on 19th February pronounced its verdict that Judicial Officers cannot be appointed as District Judges through the direct recruitment under the quota reserved for the members of the bar. The quotas which are embarked for the members of the bar requires a continues practice of more than 7 years, and thus subordinate judicial officers are not eligible for applying for direct recruitment.
The issue regarding whether Civil Judges can apply for direct recruitment to the post of District Judge through the quotas reserved for the members of the Bar was referred to the bench in the case of Dheeraj Mor v. Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. Observing the matter involved substantial question of law in to interpretation of Article 233 of the Constitution of India, the division bench made a reference on January 23rd, 2018.
The two issues raised by the petitioners were:
“(i) In case a candidate has completed 7 years of practice as an advocate, he/she shall be an eligible candidate despite the fact that on the date of the application/appointment, he/she is in the service of the Union or the State;
(ii) The members who are in judicial service as Civil Judge, Junior Division or Senior Division, in case they have completed 7 years as Judicial Officers or seven years as Judicial Officer-cum-Advocate, they should be treated as eligible candidates.”
- The Court held that when someone opts for a particular stream, i.e. Judicial Services by his own choice, he cannot sail in two boats.
- The Court further added that, if one of those source or sources are permitted to compete in the quota embarked for the other without the converse situation the result would rank as discrimination.
The Supreme Court’s verdict
The Three Judge Bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Vineet Saran and Justice S Ravindra Bhat held that, “when someone joins a particular stream, i.e. a judicial service by his own volition, he cannot sail in two boats. His chance to occupy the post of District Judge would be by a twofold channel, either in the 50% seniority/merit quota, by promotion, or the quota for limited competitive examination. There is a stream (of appointment) for inservice candidates of higher judiciary in the High Court and another stream clearly earmarked for the Bar.”
The Supreme Court went on to add that another reason for appointment of members of bar was to benefit the Court from the experience gained by the practicing lawyers while appearing before various Courts. The Court also noted to the point that, the Constitutional Scheme of delineating the two streams of recruitment has been recognized by the Courts consistently for over many years. Another concurring opinion of the Court was, the recognition of separate streams of recruitment for in-service candidates and candidates from the Bar is in line with the Constitutional Scheme.
The Court Further added, “If one those in one stream, or source- i.e. judicial officers- are permitted to compete in the quota earmarked for the other (i.e. advocates) without the converse situation (i.e. advocates competing in the quota earmarked for judicial officers- an impossibility) the result would be rank discrimination”
Having similar observation, all the three judges opined that, the decision to earmark slots for advocate was also underscored by the recognition that they would bring a unique perspective in the interpretation of laws. The Court said:
“The Constitution makers were aware that the judicial branch had to be independent, and at the same time, reflect a measure of diversity of thought, and approach. This is borne out by eligibility conditions spelt out clearly in regard to appointments at every level of both the lower and higher judiciary: the District court, the High Courts and the Supreme Court. In regard to judicial positions in each of these institutions, the Constitution enables appointments, from amongst members of the Bar, as its framers were acutely conscious that practicing advocates reflect independence and are likely offer a useful attribute, i.e. ability to think differently and have novel approaches to interpretation of the laws and the Constitution, so essential for robustness of the judiciary, as well as society as a whole.”
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
1. Dheeraj Mor v. Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, Civil Appeal No. 1698 of 2020