24 Aug 2022 8:44 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Monday held that there can be no discrimination between the appointment of Court Managers in the High Court and the District Court, particularly when the same selection procedure is being followed for both.A Division Bench comprising Justices SV Bhatti and Basant Balaji, while holding so, observed that merely because notifications were different for the two and...
The Kerala High Court on Monday held that there can be no discrimination between the appointment of Court Managers in the High Court and the District Court, particularly when the same selection procedure is being followed for both.
A Division Bench comprising Justices SV Bhatti and Basant Balaji, while holding so, observed that merely because notifications were different for the two and the selection to the High Court was under Article 229 of the Constitution, it could not be said that selection process is different. The appellants were held to be entitled to regularization of their posts as Court Managers in the High Court as a one-time measure, accordingly.
The instant writ appeals were preferred against the Single Judge's dismissal of the writ petition filed by the appellants/the erstwhile petitioners seeking the issuance of a Mandamus or other appropriate writ for regularizing the appointments of the petitioners as Court Managers in the High Court of Kerala pursuant to the Apex Court order.
The post of Court Managers in the High Court and District Courts were created pursuant to the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission and following a notification dated n 17.02.2014, the appellants herein were selected and appointed as Court Managers in the High Court on temporary basis. Later, their tenure was extended for each successive year. They were however, terminated on 26.02.2021.
On the same day however, another official memorandum was also issued seeking willingness of the appellants for considering them for re-engagement as Court Managers on contract basis for a further period of one year. On having received the appellant's assent, another order was passed by the Registrar (General) appointing them as Court Managers with effect from 12.3.2021.
Meanwhile, on 31.03.2017, the State of Kerala issued an order sanctioning two posts of Court Managers in the High Court and extending two temporary posts until permanent posts are filled. During this time, the Supreme Court had also issued an order in an Interlocutory Application in 2010 filed in writ petition 1022 of 1989, whereby it had noted that the post of Court Managers "must be created in each judicial district for assisting Principal District and Sessions Judges. Such Court Managers would enable the District Judges to devote more time to their core work, that is, judicial functions. This, in turn, would enhance the efficiency of the District Judicial System". It was further directed that,
"The services of any person already working as a Court Manager in any district should be regularized by the State Government as we are of the considered view that their assistance is needed for a proper administrative set up in a Court".
Court Managers appointed in District Courts benefitted from this order and their posts were regularised. However, the Committee for framing High Court Service Rules rejected a representation made by the Appellants for absorption against the two sanctioned posts, as one-time arrangement. It decided to proceed with fresh recruitments.
In the statement filed on behalf of the respondents, it was stated that the interview for recruitment of Court Managers in the District Court and in the High Court were both different. It was also stated that the appellants in this case were appointed on temporary basis and their tenure was also extended as per the stipulations in the contract executed between the High Court and the appellants from time to time. It was further contended that the Apex Court had only directed the State government to regularize the appointments in District Courts alone.
It was further pointed out that Article 229 of the Constitution of India confers rule making power on the Chief Justice alone, and it was in exercise of this power that Chief Justice had referred it to the Rules Committee. In this regard, it was submitted that the discretionary power of the Chief Justice could not be challenged, and the decision for direct recruitment to the post of Court Manager is not violative of Articles 14 or 16 of the Constitution of India. It was also argued that High Court Managers are desired to possess MBA degree from a recognized University in addition to LL.B., along with five years prior experience.
In their reply affidavit, the appellants submitted that considering the nature of duties and responsibilities were similar, and taking note of the fact that the appointments were through a common selection process, the respondents had acted in an unfair and discriminatory manner, violative of Article 14. It was further pointed out that there was no explanation provided as to why Court Managers in the High Court alone were to be treated as a separate class for denying regularization.
The High Court observed that although the Apex Court Order pertained to Court Managers in the District Judiciary,
"the same yardstick can be applied in the case of Court Managers of High Court also, since all the Court Managers were selected through a common selection procedure, by way of an interview. Merely because the notifications of the District Judiciary for Court Managers of District Courts as well as this Court were different, it cannot be said that the selection to the District Court was different and selection to the High Court was under Article 229 of the Constitution of India".
The Court noted that a few of the High Courts in India have understood the order of the Apex Court to be applied for all the Court Managers irrespective of whether they are working in the District Court or in the High Court and consequently the Court Managers working in different High Courts were also regularised as a one time measure.
Resultantly, the decision of the Single Judge was set aside and the appellants were held entitled to be regularized as Court Managers of the Kerala High Court as a one-time measure.
The respondents were represented by Advocates Elvin Peter P.J., the Standing Counsel for High Court of Kerala Ganesh, Central Government Counsel Suvin R. Menon, and State Attorney N. Manoj Kumar.
Case Title: Vidya Gopan & Anr v. High Court of Kerala & Ors.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 449
Click Here To Read/Download The Order