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DHJS - Supreme Court Reduces Service Years Criteria For Civil Judges To Seek Promotion As District Judges Through LDCE

Sohini Chowdhury
19 April 2022 3:14 PM GMT
DHJS - Supreme Court Reduces Service Years Criteria For Civil Judges To Seek Promotion As District Judges Through LDCE
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its previous orders regarding the eligibility criteria for Civil Judges in Delhi Judicial Service to seek promotion to the cadre of District Judges through Limited Departmental Competitive Examination (LDCE).The Court has now held that Civil Judges having 7 years qualifying service [(5 years as Civil Judge (Junior Division) and 2 years as Civil Judge...

The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its previous orders regarding the eligibility criteria for Civil Judges in Delhi Judicial Service to seek promotion to the cadre of District Judges through Limited Departmental Competitive Examination (LDCE).

The Court has now held that Civil Judges having 7 years qualifying service [(5 years as Civil Judge (Junior Division) and 2 years as Civil Judge (Senior Division)] or 10 years qualifying service as Civil Judge (Junior Division) will be eligible for promotion as District Judges strictly on the basis of merit through LDCE.

As per the earlier orders, the eligibility for LDCE promotion was 5 years service for Civil Judges (Senior Division).

Allowing a set of applications filed by candidates and also the Delhi High Court seeking modification of the previous orders, a Bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai modified the order passed on 21.03.2002 as follows :

(i) Paragraph 28 (1) (b) of the order dated 21st March 2002 passed by this Court, is modified and substituted as under:

"25% by promotion strictly on the basis of merit through LDCE of Civil Judges having 7 years qualifying service [(5 years as Civil Judge (Junior Division) and 2 years as Civil Judge (Senior Division)] or 10 years qualifying service as Civil Judge (Junior Division)."

(ii) On 20.04.2010, the Court had held that only 10% of the cadre of District Judges should be filled up by LDCE with candidates having qualified service of 5 years as Civil Judge (Senior Division). That order was modified as follows :

"Thus, we direct that henceforth only 10% of the cadre strength of District Judges be filled up by Limited Departmental Competitive Examination with those candidates who have qualified service of 7 years [(5 years as Civil Judge (Junior Division) and 2 years as Civil Judge (Senior Division)] or 10 years qualifying service as Civil Judge(Junior Division)."

Senior Advocate PS Patwalia appeared for the applicants. Senior Advocate ADN Rao represented the Delhi High Court. Senior Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar assisted the Court as amicus curiae.

Applicants sought reduction of eligibility criteria

An application was filed by two judicial officers in the cadre of Delhi Judicial Services for modification of the orders of the Apex Court dated 21.03.2002 and 20.04.2010 in All India Judges Association And Ors v. Union of India And Ors. WP(C) No. 1022 of 1989. They had filed applications seeking permission to participate in the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination ("LDCE") for promotion to Delhi Higher Judicial Service ("DHJS") District Judge Cadre. They further sought the Court's indulgence to do away with the requirement of 5 years qualifying service as Civil Judge (Senior Division) and replace the same with 10 years of qualifying service in total as a Civil Judge.

The orders were passed after considering the peculiar circumstances prevalent in Delhi. The Bench noted that in Delhi, though the pay scale is different, the nature of work performed by the Civil Judge (Junior Division) and Civil Judge (Senior Division) is the same. Moreover, the ratio of Civil Judge (Junior Division) to Civil Judge (Senior Division) in Delhi being 80:20, the High Court had already approached the Principal Secretary (LJ & LA), Government of NCT of Delhi for an increase in the quota of Civil Judge (Senior Division). The Bench noted -

"The High Court of Delhi has already moved the Principal Secretary (LJ & LA), Government of NCT of Delhi for increase of quota of Civil Judge (Senior Division) to 25% from 20% i.e. an increase from 96 Civil Judges (Senior Division) to 121 Civil Judges (Senior Division), out of a total strength of 482."

The Delhi High Court also supported the stand of the applicants and sought reduction of the minimum qualifying service to 7 years from 10 years for promotion to the DHJS under 25% quota of LDCE.

SC Order of March 2002

The report of the Shetty Commission, which was set up pursuant to the order of the Apex Court, by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, was considered by the Court on 21.03.2002. It made certain observations with respect to the method of recruitment to the posts in the cadre of Higher Judicial Services.

"...In order to achieve this, while the ratio of 75 per cent appointment by promotion and 25 per cent by direct recruitment to the Higher Judicial Service is maintained, we are, however, of the opinion that there should be two methods as far as appointment by promotion is concerned : 50 per cent of the total posts in the Higher Judicial Service must be filled by promotion on the basis of principle of merit­-cum­-seniority…The remaining 25 per cent of the posts in the service shall be filled by promotion strictly on the basis of merit through the limited departmental competitive examination for which the qualifying service as a Civil Judge (Senior Division) should be not less than five years…"

To incentivise the process and to permit the relatively junior officers to compete in order to excel and get quicker promotions, the Apex Court directed that 50% recruitment of the Higher Judicial Service would be from amongst the Civil Judges (Senior Division) on the basis of merit-cum-seniority; 25% by promotion on the basis of merit through the LDCE of Civil Judges (Senior Division) with minimum 5 years of experience; and the remaining 25% to be filled by direct recruitment.

Order of 2010

Subsequently, on 05.09.2008, the issue of eligibility requirement for recruitment falling in the category of 25% quota by promotion on the basis of LDCE came up before the Full Court of the Delhi High Court. Therein it was considered that as per the existing rules, a Civil Judge (Junior Division) is not eligible to become Civil Judge (Senior Division) until he completes 5 years of qualifying service. Moreover, a Civil Judge (Junior Division), as per the rules, also required to have a minimum of 10 years qualifying service to be considered even for the 25% quota through LDCE. The Full Court opined it would be fit to reduce the eligibility requirements of 10 years to 7 years [(5 years as Civil Judge (Junior Division) and 2 years as Civil Judge (Senior Division) under the 25% quota.

By its order dated 20.04.2010, the Apex Court reduced the 25% of the posts to be filled up through LDCE to 10%, considering that in many High Courts the posts remained unfilled as sufficient number of candidates were not available for being promoted under this particular category as a Civil Judge (Senior Division) in the normal course gets promotion before the completion of period of 5 years. It directed -

"...there shall be 25% of seats for direct recruitment from the Bar, 65% of seats are to be filled up by regular promotion of Civil Judge (Senior Division) and 10% seats are to be filled up by limited departmental competitive examination. If candidates are not available for 10% seats, or are not able to qualify in the examination then vacant posts are to be filled up by regular promotion in accordance with the Service Rules applicable."

Case Title: All India Judges Association And Ors v. Union of India And Ors. WP(C) No. 1022 of 1989

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 385

Click here to read/download the order



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