Judicial Vacancies Update | Day 2: Supreme Court dismisses Haryana Government’s application to oversee examinations in the stateJudicial Vacancies in the Lower Courts
Today, the Supreme Court dismissed an interlocutory application filed by the Government of Haryana concerning judicial examinations in the state. The Haryana government sought directions that the judicial examinations in the State be conducted by the Public Services Commission per the provisions of Part C of the Punjab Civil Service (Judicial Branch) Rules, 1951. Typically, the High Court of each state looks into appointments in that state.
Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, an amicus curiae appointed to assist the Court in the case, appeared for the State. Senior Advocate P.S. Patwalia argued for the High Court.
On October 22nd, 2018, a 2-Judge Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K. Kaul took suo motu cognisance of the high number of judicial vacancies in the District and Subordinate Courts.
The Bench appointed four amici curiae to assist the Court in monitoring States:
- Shyam Divan, responsible for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the North Eastern States.
- KV Vishwanathan, responsible for Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala.
- Vijay Hansaria, responsible for Madhya Pradesh and the High Courts of Madras, Odisha, Patna and Punjab & Haryana.
- Gaurav Agrawal, responsible for Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
Hansaria: The Public Services Commission of the state must hold the examinations
Commencing the arguments for the day, Hansaria informed the bench that in Haryana, the judicial vacancies and exams are overlooked by a six-member committee comprising three judges of the High Court, the Chairperson of the Public Services Commission, the Advocate General and the Chief Secretary.
However, according to the Rules, the Public Service Commission of the State was in charge of conducting the exams, not the High-Court Committee. Every time a notification to fill vacancies was issued, he told the bench that the rules were altered to ensure that the Committee was in charge of the exam paper, invigilation and selection. This caused delays in the process and was unnecessary. This time around the State said, “We should go by the Rules, we are not amending them every year.”
Patwalia: The system of appointment has been in place since 2005
Patwalia informed the Bench that while the procedural aspects of the examination were handled by the Public Services Commission of the State, the exam papers, invigilation, assessments and interviews were conducted by the High Court Committee.
Every time the occasion arose for judicial appointments, the government notified a change in the rules to empower the High Court Committee to oversee the process. Patwalia told the bench that this has been the system since 2005 and was done most recently in 2020.
He argued that in most states, it was the High Court that oversaw this process of judicial appointments. And noted that in the few states where the Public Services Commission was overseeing the exam, the High Court closely monitored the process. Further, he claimed that the state government had filed this application at the Supreme Court directly without deliberating with the High Court first.
He also drew the Court’s attention to the Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices in 2006. In this Conference, it was jointly accepted that the High Courts would monitor the recruitment process of judicial appointments. The Supreme Court’s Order on 4 January 2007 acknowledged the consensus of this Conference, he told the bench. Haryana and many other states have been following the system (where High Courts are in charge of judicial recruitment) for decades now. Therefore, he urged that the system must continue.
Bench: No objective data to warrant a change in the process
Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, dictating the Order for the bench, dismissed the application filed by the government of Haryana. He reasoned that if the process of recruitment which has been in place since 2005 had to be changed, it must be based on objective data which shows that a change is required. However, the state government showed no such data. The only reason given by them was the language of the Rules. Going plainly on these rules, the Chief said would be superficial, as the objective of the Court was to ensure prompt recruitments to the lower judiciaries to fill up pending vacancies.
Further, he stated that the High Courts were best suited to fill the vacancies as they were aware of local requirements, and were equipped to oversee the process independently. Therefore, the application filed by the Haryana government was dismissed. The Court also directed the state to take steps to fill the pending vacancies within two weeks.
Before the close, Hansaria reminded the Court that a different amicus had to be appointed to help monitor the vacancies in the states of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala. Earlier, the amicus responsible for these states was Justice K.V. Viswanathan who was elevated as a judge to the Supreme Court earlier this year. The Court assigned these states to advocate Gaurav Agrawal.