29 April 2020 12:27 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that in the seniority list of District Judges, the inter-se seniority between candidates who passed the 'Limited Competitive Examination (LCE)' must be determined on the basis of their merit in the examination, and not on the basis of their seniority in the erstwhile cadre. Holding thus in a batch of cases titled "Dinesh Kumar Gupta vs High Court...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that in the seniority list of District Judges, the inter-se seniority between candidates who passed the 'Limited Competitive Examination (LCE)' must be determined on the basis of their merit in the examination, and not on the basis of their seniority in the erstwhile cadre.
Holding thus in a batch of cases titled "Dinesh Kumar Gupta vs High Court of Judicature of Rajasthan", the Supreme Court interfered with the seniority list of District Judges drawn by the High Court of Rajasthan on March 15, 2019, to give proper placement for LCE candidates.
The stream of 'LCE' for promotion to District Judges' post was introduced following the dictum of the Supreme Court in the 2002 All India Judges Association case. 25% posts were earmarked for the LCE stream to give an opportunity for the meritorious candidates in Civil Judges cadre to get appointment as District Judges, even before their turn in the usual promotional stream arising.
In the list drawn by the Rajasthan HC, the LCE candidates were placed as per their seniority in the previous cadre, without taking into account their merit in the examination.
This was challenged in a bunch of writ petitions filed in the Supreme Court.
A bench comprising Justices U U Lalit and Vineet Saran held that the method adopted by the Rajasthan HC in placing the LCE candidates defeated the very objective of LCE. The bench noted that the LCE was introduced as "an incentive amongst relatively junior and other officers to improve and to compete with each other so as to excel and get accelerated promotion". The Court noted that in All India Judges Association case, it was held that promotion through LCE must be "strictly on the basis of merit."
Therefore, if the inter-se seniority of LCE candidates are fixed based on their erstwhile seniority, this intent will be defeated, the bench said.
"If the list is to be drawn up according to merit, it is possible that the last person in the list of selectees may be the senior most and going by the Report of the Committee, if all the selectees are promoted in the same year such last person may as well be at the top of the list of promotees through LCE. In that event, the seniority shall become the governing criteria and the excellence on part of a comparatively junior candidate may recede in the background. Instead of giving incentive to comparatively junior and other officers, the entire examination process will stand reduced to a mere qualifying examination rather than a competitive examination affording opportunity to meritorious candidates. The criteria shall then become seniority subject to passing the LCE.
"The direction issued in All India Judges Association to afford an incentive to meritorious candidates regardless of their seniority would not thus be carried out"
Service As Additional Judge On Ad-Hoc Promotion Will Not Count For Seniority Of District Judge : SC [Read Judgment]
The HC relied on Rule 47(f) of the Rajasthan Judicial Services Rules 2010 which stated that the inter se seniority of persons promoted to the District Judge Cadre in the same year ought to be the same as it was in the posts held by them at the time of promotion.
The SC however held that this general rule must give way to the special rule, Rule 31(2), which uses the expression "strictly on the basis of merit" while dealing with posts to be filled in through LCE.
"The general principle appearing in Rule 47(4) must, therefore, give way to the special dispensation in Rule 31(2) of 2010 Rules", the bench noted.
The SC observed that the HC "completely failed to appreciate the true character of LCE and reservation of certain quota for that category".
"We, therefore, accept the submissions made by the learned Advocate for the petitioners and declare that the inter se placement of the candidates selected through LCE must be based on merit and not on the basis of the seniority in the erstwhile cadre", the bench said in conclusion on this aspect.
The SC directed that "the seniority list issued in terms of Report dated 15.03.2019 shall stand modified only to the extent that appropriate placement to the candidates selected through LCE be given on the basis of their merit in the examination and not on the basis of their seniority in the erstwhile cadre."
The consequential modifications were directed to be carried out within four weeks of the judgment.
The challenge made to the list on other grounds were repelled by the top court.
While dealing with another issue in the case, the bench held that service as Additional Judge on ad-hoc promotion will not count for seniority of District Judge.
Case DetailsTitle : Dinesh Kumar Gupta vs High Court of Judicature of RajasthanCase No : Writ Petition (C) No. 936/2018Bench : JJ U U Lalit & Vineet Saran
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