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Delhi High Court issues notice on plea challenging amendment of Delhi Higher Judicial Service Rules

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The Delhi High Court has issued notice on a batch of petitions challenging the notification dated February 8, 2022, amending the Rules of Delhi Higher Judicial Service, 1970 whereby Rule 9(3) has been introduced and a minimum age limit of 35 years has been prescribed.

The petitioners challenged the subsequent advertisement dated February 23, 2022 and also sought directions to the Respondents to allow the Petitioners, who possess an experience of seven years or more and are less than 35 years of age, to apply and appear for the Delhi Higher Judicial Services Examination-2022.

Senior Counsel for the petitioners stated that in 2019, the criterion of minimum age limit of 35 years was removed from the Delhi Higher Judicial Service Exam Rules as the direct recruitment quota was not getting filled and was lying vacant and the rules have been recently amended and the minimum age limit of 35 years has been reintroduced.

Senior counsel for the Petitioners further state that fixation of minimum age limit is violative of the Right to Equality enshrined under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is submitted that there is lack of intelligible differentia behind the impugned notification and the impugned notification is not only contrary to the practice being followed by other States, but it also curtails the rights of aspiring candidates from the Bar of a fair opportunity of participation.

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Article 233 of the Constitution stipulates that the only qualification required for being appointed as a District Judge is the continuous practice of seven years as an advocate or a pleader. It is emphasized that even the Constitution of India does not prescribe a minimum age limit for appointment as a District Judge , the senior counsel added.

They also state that the impugned notification violates the legitimate expectation of the Petitioners and all other similarly placed aspirants who have been preparing for Delhi Higher Judicial Service Examination for the last two to three years.

Senior counsel for the Petitioners prayed for an interim order as the last date for filling up an online application form is 12th March 2022 and the Preliminary Examination has been scheduled to be held on 20th March 2022.

While considering the Petition , the Division Bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Sudhir Kumar Jain issued notice to the  Respondents .

However, the Court is of the view that since the minimum age limit has been re-introduced after a hiatus of two years, the matters require consideration.

“Let the counter affidavits be filed by the respondents within two weeks. Rejoinder affidavits, if any, be filed before the next date of hearing”, the Court directed.

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The Bench further directed the  respondents to extend the date for filling up the online application form beyond the next date of hearing.

Matter is listed on 07th April, 2022 for further hearing.

It is pertinent to note that the Petition moved through advocates Aditya Kapoor, Manika Goswamy, Medha Tandon, Kushal Kumar, Harsh Ahuja and Akash Dep Gupta of Erudite Legal law firm states that Article 233 of the Constitution of India demonstrates that the qualification for being appointed as a district judge is practice as an advocate or pleader of not less than seven years and if recommended by the High Court.

Lawyers further state that the provisions of the Constitution nowhere stipulate the minimum age as 35 years for the purpose of appointment to the post of district judge. Earlier the lower age limit of 35 years was removed from the Rules of Delhi Higher Judicial Service Exam in the year 2019, and the exam was also advertised in the year 2019 without any lower age limit for Delhi Higher Judicial Services.

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The result of the same was declared in June 2021, whereby only 4 candidates were declared qualified and also recommended for appointment to Delhi Higher Judicial Services. But by way of amendment Impugned notification, the lower age limit of 35 years has been reintroduced in Delhi Higher Judicial Service Rules. It is submitted that the vacancies meant for Direct recruitment quota are not getting filled up for want of suitable candidates and accordingly, are lying vacant.

The stipulation of a lower age limit by the Respondents does not have any reasonable nexus with the object to be achieved. There is a doctrine of legitimate expectation of candidates/aspirants that the lower age limit for the exam of Delhi Higher Judicial Services Exam will not be reintroduced in an arbitrary manner especially when very recently the lower age limit was removed and also candidates appointed in previous exam, were all of this age group, plea read.

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