The Bombay High Court on Friday ruled as constitutional the prescription for prospective judges to have sufficient knowledge of Marathi to practice in subordinate courts in Maharashtra.
The Bench comprising Justice RM Savant and Justice Revati Mohite Dere upheld Rule 5(3)(d) of the Maharashtra Judicial Service Rules, 2008, which mandates that the candidate must have “sufficient knowledge of Marathi so as to enable him to speak, read and write in Marathi and to translate with facility from Marathi into English and vice versa”.
In doing so, the Court referred to several Apex Court judgments, and ruled, “ In our view Rule 5(3)(b) satisfies the tests laid down by Article 14 of the Constitution of India and therefore the challenge to the said Rule would have to be repelled.”
The Court was hearing a petition filed by one Shobhit Gaur, who was shortlisted by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) for the position of a civil judge, but was later labelled to be “not suitable” by the authorities, who found that he had no knowledge of Marathi language.
He had now sought setting aside of his rejection order, and had also challenged Rule 5(3)(d) on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, contending that it unfairly discriminates between the advocates who are practicing in Maharashtra and the advocates who are practicing outside the State. The Court, however, rejected this contention.
Mr. Gaur had further submitted a certificate issued by a District and Sessions Judge, KKD Court, Delhi to satisfy the condition under Rule 5(3)(d), which also requires a certificate of knowledge of Marathi to be produced by an applicant. The Court, however, noted that this certificate did not satisfy the requirements of the provision, as it was not issued by the Principal District Judge. It further noted that the District Judge and Sessions Judge would not be expected to have knowledge of Marathi.
The Court then referred to Rule 8 of the MJ Service Rules of 2008, which mandates that no person selected for nomination shall be appointed unless the appointing authority satisfies itself that he is of good character and is, in all respects, suitable for appointment. This unsuitability, it opined, was not restricted to nonfulfillment of the eligibility condition and included such matters that might be dehors the Rules but germane for an appointment.
Noting that Mr. Gaur had not satisfied the condition of sufficient knowledge of Marathi, it then ruled, “In our view, the Petitioner has also not satisfied the condition of sufficient knowledge of Marathi as the certificate produced by the Petitioner is not in terms of Rule 5(3)(d). Since the Petitioner is found “unsuitable” on account of nonfulfillment of the requirement imposed by the Rules, the rule of estoppel would not be attracted. Hence no question of giving rise to any legitimate expectation would arise.”
The Court, therefore, opined that Mr. Gaur had failed to satisfy the eligibility conditions and that in such a scenario, the decision taken by the authorities cannot be termed as unreasonable or arbitrary.