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The Supreme Court Bench of Hon’ble Justice Mr Rohinton Fali Nariman and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant on 16th September 2019 in Dheeraj Mor Vs  Hon’ble High Court Of Delhi directed the matter of appointment of District Judges by way of direct recruitment to be urgently listed before Justice Arun Mishra.

The petitioners have raised mainly two contentions – (i) in case a candidate has completed seven 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 Union or State; (ii) the members who are in judicial service as Civil Judge, Junior Division or Senior Division, in case they have completed seven years as Judicial Officers or seven years as Judicial Officer-cum-Advocate, they should be treated as eligible candidates. Extensive reference has been made to various judgments of this Court which pertain to Article 233 of Constitution of India.

In Satya Narain Singh case where petitioners claimed appointment to the post of District Judges to be considered under the category of members of the Bar who had completed seven years of practice ignoring the fact that they were already in the Judicial Service. The said fact operates as a bar undoubtedly under Article 233(2) for their appointment to the Higher Judicial Service.. In the supplementing opinion, Sapre, J. made the following observations which are extremely pertinent in this context :-. Mr Ranjit Kumar, Solicitor General of India appearing for the respondent (High Court), however, contended that the word “appointed” occurring in Article 233(2) of the Constitution should necessarily include the entire selection process starting from the date of submitting an application by the person concerned till the date of his appointment. He submitted that if any such person is found to be in service of the Union or the State, as the case may be, on the date when he has applied then such person would suffer disqualification prescribed in clause (2) of Article 233 and would neither be eligible to apply nor be eligible for appointment to the post of District Judge.

Court however rejected the submission, saying, “Neither the text of Article and nor the words occurring in Article 233(2) suggest such interpretation. Indeed, if his argument is accepted, it would be against the spirit of Article 233(2). Denying such person to apply for participating in selection process when he otherwise fulfills all conditions prescribed in the advertisement by taking recourse to 8 clause (2) of Article 233 would, in my opinion, amount to violating his right guaranteed under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.” This is also an issue which is required to be considered.  In view of the various decisions of this Court, one major issue arising for consideration is whether the eligibility for appointment as district judge is to be seen only at the time of appointment or at the time of application or both.

–India Legal Bureau

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