They sought to be absorbed in the post of Additional District and Sessions Judge

The Madras High Court has dismissed writ petitions filed by three 57-year-old women, who had served as judges from 2002 to April this year when all the 49 Fast Track Courts in the State were re-designated, to absorb them in regular service as Additional District and Sessions Judges without insisting on writing a test or attending an interview.

A Division Bench comprising Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice S. Manikumar declined to entertain their plea on the ground that they were selected from the Bar and appointed as ad hoc FTC judges only on a contract basis and hence the High Court’s Registrar General was right in discontinuing their services and relieving them of the charge on April 25.

The judges held that the petitioners had no right to continue in the FTC courts too as they had been re-designated as Additional District and Sessions Courts (ADSCs) following a Government Order passed by the Home (Courts-II) Department on August 26, 2011, at the request of the High Court which issued a notification with regard to the re-designation on April 11 this year.

“Thus, it is evident that the FTC became ADSCs from April 4, 2012. At the same time it is true that even after conversion of the courts, the petitioners were allowed to preside over the courts up to April 25 when the Registrar General passed the order discontinuing their services. The said gap of 15 days had arisen due to administrative reasons alone,” the Bench pointed out.

Tracing the history of the issue, the judges recalled that the concept of Fast Track Courts was mooted by the Centre with a view to clear expeditiously large number of cases pending in the subordinate courts. A total of 1,734 such courts were constituted across the country under a central government funded scheme. The number of FTCs for every district was decided according to the volume of cases pending.

In so far as Tamil Nadu was concerned, 49 FTCs were constituted under the Central scheme. Of these 34 posts were filled up by promotion to judges from subordinate judiciary on ad hoc basis. The rest of the 15 vacancies were filled through direct recruitment by selecting candidates from the Bar. The selection of the judges for the FTCs was done by the High Court.

The present petitioners were among those 15 lawyers who got selected from the Bar. They had enrolled as advocates between September, 1980, and April, 1981. They occupied the post on the basis of a G.O. passed by the Public Department on February 14, 2002, and a consequential notification issued by the High Court’s Registrar General on February 18, 2002.

Of the 15 judges selected from the Bar, the services of seven judges were terminated by the High Court after paying salary in lieu of notice period as their services were found unsatisfactory during a periodical review. Four other judges were allowed to serve up to 60 years of age. The services of the three petitioners and another judge, who was under suspension, alone were discontinued and hence the present case.

Writing the judgement for the Bench, Mr. Justice Vasanthakumar rejected their argument that their services could be discontinued only by the Governor as they were appointed on the basis of Government Order. The judge said that the petitioner’s services were extended from time to time through orders passed by High Court’s Registrar General and therefore the latter was also entitled to discontinue their services.

The only option available to the petitioners was to get appointed as Additional District and Sessions Judges by appearing for a written examination and interview, if any, conducted by the High Court. However, “petitioners are aged 57 years and whether or not they are willing to undergo the process of selection, if conducted, is not known,” the judge concluded.

Keywords: FTC judges

More In: Madurai