A two-judge bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R Banumati on Tuesday issued notice to the High Court of Kerala and other respondents in a fresh petition challenging the Kerala District Judges’ Selection 2014.
In April also, the bench had issued notice to the high court in a similar petition challenging the selection.
Advocate CN Sreekumar, who appeared for the petitioners, submitted that the court had already issued notice to the high court in similar matters [W.P.No.229 of 2017 and W.P.(C)No.232 of 2017].
Then the court directed the registry to tag the petition with the connected matters.
The petitioners submitted that as per the notification issued by the high court, the selection process consisted of written examination and viva voce, and the final rank list should be prepared based on the aggregate marks scored in both. But the high court, contrary to the notification, imposed a condition of 50% marks mandatory for viva voce, written examination.
During the hearing, the court observed that a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court is hearing the matter regarding the cut-off marks to be fixed at the time of interview.
The matter was referred to larger bench as there was a difference of opinion between Justice Banumati and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh in the case of Salam Samarjeet Singh vs High Court of Manipur at Imphal & Anr.
As per information available on the site of the Supreme Court, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M Shantagoudar has posted the Samarjeet Singh case on August 10 for final disposal.
Samarjeet Singh Case Background
Salam Samarjeet Singh, an aspirant for the district judge post, was declared unsuccessful in viva voce conducted by the high court for failing to get 40% marks. Though there were no minimum marks prescribed in the rules and advertisement, the full court took a decision that “no one shall be declared pass and selected for appointment unless he secures minimum 40% from the interview”.
Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice R Banumathi expressed divergent views in the matter, regarding the challenge against prescribing minimum marks for viva voce conducted by the High Court of Manipur for appointment to the post of district judge (entry level).
Justice Banumathi dismissed the writ petition he filed before the apex court, observing that when the decision of the full court was to ensure selection of a meritorious candidate, it cannot be said the decision of the high court amounted to change in the criteria of selection after the selection process had started. It was also held that keeping in view the rules and having regard to the seniority of the post, which is district judge (entry level), the high court cannot be faulted with for exercising its residuary right reserved in its favour by prescribing cut-off marks for the interview.
Justice Banumathi’s dissenting opinion may not be fully applicable in the present selection issue as the judge had opined in the above case that “had the high court convened the full court meeting after conducting the viva-voce and had then prescribed the minimum qualifying marks, the contention of the petitioner would have been justified”, which is the moot issue in Kerala case.
Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, in his separate dissenting opinion, allowed the writ petition and observed that the high court resolution was not communicated to the petitioner and it was neither a part of the rules nor of the advertisement and, hence, the theory that if a candidate takes a calculated chance and faces the selection procedure, then on the result being unfavourable, he cannot be permitted to turn around and challenge the process of selection, is not at all attracted.
The theory rests on the hypothesis that the impugned procedure or rule is already in public domain and the candidate must, therefore, be aware of it when he participates, Justice Singh said.