Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Supreme Court to hear plea challenging elevation of 68 judicial officers as district judges in Gujarat

The Supreme Court will hear on Monday, a petition challenging the elevation of 68 judicial officers as district judges through the 65 percent quota rule.

The petition has been filed by two judicial officers of the senior civil judge cadre – Ravikumar Maheta, Under Secretary in the Legal department of Gujarat government and Sachin Prataprai Mehta, Assistant Director at the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority.

The petitioners sought quashing of the selection list issued by the Gujarat High Court on March 10 and subsequent notification of the State of Gujarat appointing them.

Filed by Advocate Purvish Malkan on behalf of the petitioners, the plea further sought directions to the High Court to prepare a fresh merit list on the principle of merit-cum-seniority.

The judicial officers to be elevated include Chief Judicial Magistrate of Surat, Harish Hasmukhbhai Varma, who convicted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for criminal defamation and sentenced him to two years simple imprisonment in a defamation case of 2019.

The conviction led to Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha.

Earlier on April 28, the Apex Court had expressed its displeasure over the April 18 notification issued by the Gujarat High Court over transfer of judges on a sub-judice matter.

The notification transferred Varma as an additional district judge at the Rajkot district court.

Terming the decision as a move that ‘overreached’ the court’s process, the Apex Court sought an explanation from the Secretary of the state government on the ‘extraordinary’ urgency shown in granting promotion, subject to the ultimate outcome of the proceedings.

The Supreme Court expressed its dissatisfaction over the ‘haste and hurry’ in which the state government approved and passed the promotion order dated April 18, 2023, when this Court was seized of the matter and a detailed order was passed while issuing the notice.

The top court of the country further said that the selection was of the year 2022 and therefore, there was no extraordinary urgency in passing the promotion order.

The Bench further sought a reply from the High Court, specifically on whether the promotions to the post in question were to be given on the basis of seniority-cum-merit or merit-cum-seniority and to place on record the entire merit list.

The judicial officers had alleged that despite obtaining higher marks than many of the selected candidates, the High Court had appointed those with lower marks, thus not following go-by to the principle of merit-cum-seniority and instead, making appointments on the basis of seniority-cum-merit.

The petition mentioned the recruitment rules, which stated that the post of a district judge was to be filled in by keeping 65 per cent reservation on the basis of principle of merit-cum-seniority and passing a suitability test.

The Division Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar had issued notice to the respondents, including the state government, the High Court and the 68 selected candidates.


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