7 Sep 2023 9:30 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently directed the District Judge, Trivandrum, to reconsider the competence and credentials of lawyers who were found ineligible for appointment as Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors in the district. Justice Devan Ramachandran observed that the 'specific grounds' that led to opinion of the District Judge with respect to the competence...
The Kerala High Court recently directed the District Judge, Trivandrum, to reconsider the competence and credentials of lawyers who were found ineligible for appointment as Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors in the district.
Justice Devan Ramachandran observed that the 'specific grounds' that led to opinion of the District Judge with respect to the competence and suitability of the applicants are crucial in the matter.
"District Judge can disapprove a particular name only for specified grounds. It is without contest that none of the petitioners in these cases have been informed why they have been found not eligible for being recommended by the learned District Judge and there is no input on record to indicate the reasons in any manner whatsoever," it observed.
The bench added, "...the word ‘specific grounds'; relating to the rejection of a candidate by the learned District Judge, assumes great importance because rejection/recording of disapproval, can be done only for valid and specified cause. Since the records to these writ petitions reveals no such having been intimated to the petitioners, I am certainly of the view that their cases will require to be reconsidered by the learned District Judge, leading to the revision of the Panel, now prepared by the District Collector, in terms of law, if it becomes so warranted."
The Court was considering a batch of writ petitions filed by certain lawyers, who had applied to the posts of Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors, aggrieved by their exclusion from the Final Panel list, without assigning any reason.
Petitioners relied on Aju Mathew & Ors. v. State of Kerala (2018), where the High Court had laid down that the District Collector would have to compile the list of all the applicants and forward the same to the District Judge, with all inputs and information as has been statutorily stipulated, who shall then arrive at his conclusion as to the competence and suitability of such candidates, and prepare a Panel of candidates.
The petitioners claimed that they were all experienced lawyers, with sufficient period of practice, and could thus not have been found incapable of being recommended by the District Judge.
The petitioners asserted that subsequent to the decision in Aju Mathew (supra), the High Court had laid down in Mohammed Sagheer K.U. v. State of Kerala & Ors. and other connected cases (2022), that rejection of names can only be on 'specific grounds' mentioned in Rule 8(2)(c) of the Kerala Government Law Officer (appointment ad conditions of service) and Conduct of Case Rules, 1978 (hereinafter, 'KGLO Rules, 1978'). It was thus submitted that since the petitioners were not informed as to the reason behind their rejection, the same amounts to violation of the two aforementioned decisions. It was added that the same also amounted to a stigma to their future professional competence.
They thus prayed for a direction to be issued to the Government to consider them for appointment to the posts of Additional Government Pleaders and Additional Public Prosecutors from the Panel prepared by the District Collector, notwithstanding the remarks by the District Judge.
The Court observed that as per Rule 8 of the KGLO Rules, 1978, the District Judge can disapprove a particular name only for specified grounds. The Court took note that none of the petitioners had been informed as to why they had not been found eligible, nor were there any inputs on record as to the reason behind the same.
On a pointed query by the Court to the State Attorney N. Manoj Kumar as to whether there was any input available with the District Collector on why the petitioners were found not deserving of being recommended by the District Judge, the latter responded in the negative, and added that the District Collector could only prepare a Panel from out of the names recommended by the District Judge, and forward the same to the Government for appointments to be made therefrom.
The Court was thus of the view that the District Collector had no independent power as regards the preparation of either the List of candidates who had applied or the final Panel. It added that in such circumstances, the opinion of District Judge becomes crucial.
The Court thereby directed the District Judge to reconsider the credentials and competence of the petitioners following the legally mandated procedure and to take a final decision thereafter, by recording specific grounds if they or any of them are found to be not deserving of being included in the Final Panel.
"The decision of the learned District Judge shall be specifically recorded in the resultant proceedings, to be then forwarded to the District Collector for the preparation of the Final Panel, to be then placed before the Government for appointment," the Court added.
Case Title: Sanjeesh S.S. v. State of Kerala & Ors. and other connected cases
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 457
Case Numbers: WP(C) Nos.15015/2023, 15046/2023, 15644/2023, 15775/2023, 19544/2023, 20804/2023
Counsel for Petitioners: Advocates Thomas Abraham, Merciamma Abraham, Aswin P. John, R. Ananthapadmanabhan, Paul Baby, M.R. Sarin, Lekshmi S.R., Parvathi Krishna, K. Siju, S. Abhilash, Anjana Kannath, Mathew Kuriakose, K.R. Arun, T.G. Sunil, J. Krishnakumar, C.N. Prakash, Moni George, Shaji P.K., Majida S., and Muhammed Suhail K.H.
Counsel for Respondents: State Attorney N. Majoj Kumar, Government Pleader K.R. Ranjith
Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment