The Madras High Court has permitted lawyers to apply for the post of Presiding Officer of the Debt Recovery Tribunal, as notified vacant by the Central Government on June 23.
The interim relief has been granted by a bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy in two writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020.
The Rules, to streamline the appointment process and harmonize the service conditions of members of various statutory Tribunals, were notified by the Central Government on February 12, 2020.
The same came to be challenged before the High Court last month and the Additional Solicitor General of India was granted four weeks time on July 8, 2020 to seek instructions on the matter. One of the grounds of challenge to the Rules is that they exclude Advocates, claiming to be eligible for such appointment, from applying to the post of the Presiding Officer at DRT.
"A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Presiding Officer of the Debts Recovery Tribunal, unless he, is, or has been, a District Judge," the eligibility criteria provided under the Schedule annexed to the 2020 Rules stipulate.
When the matter was first heard, the bench had ordered that any selection which shall be made, shall be subject to the outcome of the writ petition.
"This order was passed in anticipation that the matter would be heard and disposed of. But, till date we find that no response has come forward from the respondents either by way of a counter affidavit or otherwise," the bench remarked on Friday.
Under these circumstances, given that the last date for applications to the said post is around the corner, i.e. August 3, 2020, the High Court has permitted Advocates to apply to the said post.
"We direct that the respondents shall also accept the applications that may be filed by Advocates, who claim to be eligible for such appointment and also show cause as to why such applicants be not considered eligible for the posts in question," the bench ordered.
It has however clarified that the participation of Advocates will not create any right in their favour and selection, if any, and the final selections shall not be announced except with the leave of the Court.
The matter is now posted for hearing on August 28, within which time the Centre may file its response.
Last month, the High Court of Kerala had issued notice in a challenge raised against Tribunal Rules 2020 on the ground that it excluded practising Advocates from appointment as judicial members in Administrative Tribunals.
Case Title: Revenue Bar Association v. Union Ministry of Finance & Anr.
Case No.: WP No. 6037/2020 and another connected matter
Quorum: Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy
Appearance: Advocate Rahul Unnikrishnan (for Petitioner); SPCGSC AP Srinivas and Advocate D. Venkataswamy Babu (for Respondents)