21 November 2022


Judgments

Supreme Court

Prem Narayan Singh and Ors. vs. Hon'ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh

MANU/SC/0526/2021

12.08.2021

Service

Interse placement of candidates selected through LCE must be based on merit and not on the basis of seniority

The Petitioners are Members of the Higher Judicial Services working as District Judges in the State of Madhya Pradesh. They were appointed to the Higher judicial Services from 2007 onwards after being selected in the Limited Competitive Examinations ('LCE'). They have challenged the resolution of the Administrative Committee of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh dated 14th December, 2017 by which it was resolved that the merit of candidates in LCE would not be relevant for altering inter se seniority in the feeder cadre. The Full Court resolution by which the resolution of the Administrative Committee dated 14th December, 2017 was approved is also assailed in the Writ Petition. The revised gradation list dated 1st February, 2019 on the basis of the resolution of the Special Committee is also questioned in the Writ Petition.

Appointment to Higher Judicial Services in accordance with the Rules was initially by direct recruitment and promotion. On the basis of the recommendations by Justice Shetty Commission, this Court directed that 25 per cent of posts in the service filled by promotion should be strictly on the basis of merit through LCE of Civil Judges (Senior Division). The High Courts were directed to frame appropriate Rules in conformity with the judgment in All India Judges' Association. This channel of promotion on the basis of merit in LCE was introduced to provide an incentive to relatively junior officers to get quicker promotion.

In Dinesh Kumar Gupta and Ors. v. Hon'ble High Court of judicature of Rajasthan and Ors., this Court considered the issue relating to inter se seniority of District Judges promoted through LCE. It was observed in Dinesh Kumar Gupta that, LCE will be reduced to a mere qualifying examination, if inter se seniority in the lower cadre has to be taken into account for determining the seniority of District Judges promoted through LCE. This Court declared that, the inter se placement of candidates selected through LCE must be based on merit and not on the basis of seniority in the erstwhile cadre.

The reason for introduction of promotion through LCE is to improve the calibre of the members of Higher Judicial Services. Such of those meritorious candidates who have been promoted on the basis of LCE cannot be deprived of their seniority on the basis of merit in the examination. In any event, 50 per cent of the posts of District Judges shall be filled by promotion on the principle of merit-cum-seniority The dispute in present case concerns seniority inter se amongst those who have been promoted through LCE.

Rule 11 (1) of the Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2017 makes it clear that the relative seniority of members of the service who are holding substantive posts at the time of commencement of the Rules shall be as it existed before the commencement of the Rules. The seniority of the Petitioners which has been determined prior to the 2017 Rules cannot be disturbed. The Petitioners will not be adversely affected by Rule 11(4)(b) of the 2017 Rules which alters the criteria for determination of seniority from merit to inter se seniority in the lower cadre. The resolution of the Administrative Committee approved by the Full Court being contrary to the law laid down by this Court in Dinesh Kumar Gupta's case is set aside. Consequently, the gradation list of the District Judges dated 1st February, hall be revised in accordance with the law laid down by this Court in Dinesh Kumar Gupta' case. Petition allowed.

Tags : Merits Seniority Eligibility

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