Apex Court finds HC ‘violated’ recruitment guideline

It was a committee, headed by a senior judge, which was monitoring the recruitment process. Photo: Special Arrangement  

In a rare case, the Supreme Court has “caught” none other than the Karnataka High Court “violating” the guidelines issued for filling up vacancies in the cadres of civil and district judges regularly.

It was found by the apex court that the High Court took 29 months to complete the selection process to the 17 posts of district judges (direct recruitment category) as against the deadline of five months.

This snail’s pace recruitment process has proved costly for B.A. Patil, who was recently stripped off from High Court’s Registrar-General post and transferred to the post of Registrar (Vigilance).

“If the High Courts do not comply with the request made by this [Supreme Court], by a judicial order, we do not know whether any ordinary citizen would think of complying with the orders and directions issued by this court,” the apex court observed in its April 28 order.

Interestingly, it was a committee, headed by a senior judge, which was monitoring the recruitment process.

In 2008, the apex court had directed all the High Courts to fill up vacancies in the cadre of district judges every year and complete the recruitment process between April 15 and September 15 every year.

From the records, the apex court found that the High Court had invited applications for filing up 17 posts of district judges on November 17, 2012. It did nothing for two years as the examination for these posts were held only on October 11, 2014.

Besides, the High Court did not initiate recruitment process to fill up vacancies in this cadre for 2013-14, a Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India noticed.

Interestingly, the apex court also found that the High Court’s Full Court [meeting of all judges] had not decided on approving selection of candidates, who had cleared the exam, even though exam results were ready in February.

“…that shows that the High Court had not taken serious steps to fill up the vacancies which they had advertised in November 2012,” the apex court said.

Also, the apex court had told the High Court “not to hesitate to change, if needed, the Registrar-General”, and appoint a R-G who can really help and assist the court in complying with the orders issued by the Supreme Court from time to time.

Judge post aspirants score zero in exam

Exam and outcome

Total lawyers applied for district judges post: 1,174
Appeared for exam: 816
Selected : 5
7 lawyers score ‘zero’ mark
6 lawyers secure single digit out of total 300 marks
Pay-scale for district judge cadre
Rs. 51,550-1,230-58,930-1,380-63,070
Successful candidates
K.S. Bharath Kumar, N.V. Bhavani, N.V. Vijay (law-graduates from National Law School of India University, Bengaluru), Ravi M.R. and Vijayakumar M.A.

Bengaluru: Zero…one…two…three…four…five…

These are not mere numbers for any arithmetical calculations but marks secured by many lawyers in the exam held by the Karnataka High Court to the posts of district judges (direct recruitment category) in December.

While selection of only five candidates of the 816 who appeared for the exam has surprised many, the legal fraternity was more shocked by the marks secured by some lawyers.

As many as seven candidates scored “zero” out of 150 marks in the criminal law paper. The performance of candidates appearing for district judge exams has been poor from past several years. Only one candidate was successful among the 518 who appeared during 2010-11.

Law graduates, aged less than 45 (48 years in case of SCs/STs), who have practised law in a trial court or High Court for a minimum period of seven years are eligible to apply to these posts.

A candidate is required to write the qualifying exam and secure minimum of 50 per cent marks (40 per cent for SCs/STs) each in civil law and criminal law papers, to qualify for the viva-voce, which carries 100 marks.

‘Single digits’

The analysis of results reveal that 106 candidates scored single digit mark in criminal law paper, and 33 secured single digit mark in civil law paper.

Apart from five who qualified for the posts, only two candidates secured pass mark, above 75 marks in criminal law but they could not qualify for the viva-voce as they had secured less than 75 marks in civil law.

Similarly, only three candidates other than the five selected, had passed in civil law but they flunked in criminal law.

As many as six candidates had secured single digit mark even after adding the marks in both papers. A candidate had secured one mark each in both papers.

A.C. Kabbin, retired judge of the Karnataka High Court who started his career as a munsiff in 1970s and worked as Registrar-General of the High Court

Exam and evaluation is tough as the best amongst the candidates need to be selected to the posts of district judges. Within a few years of their selection they get promoted to the rank of Principal District judge, who will head the district-level judiciary. Brilliant lawyers with good practise need to sacrifice their earning if they have to join the judicial service. Only a few such lawyers show interest to join the judicial service even after increase in salary for this cadre. I was getting Rs. 400 as monthly salary when I joined the judicial service and now the pay package is respectable.

P.P. Hegde, Chairman, Karnataka State Bar Council

Meritorious law graduates/lawyers don’t opt for judicial service for many reasons, including the manner in which the judges in the lower judiciary are treated by the High Courts and the Supreme Court. There is no proper mechanism for redressal of grievances of judges in the lower judiciary. Many good lawyers are not prepared to leave their lucrative practise. Law colleges having no good and sufficient teaching staff can’t produce good law graduates. Lawyers educated from such colleges obviously can’t perform in such tough exams. The selection process should be an annual feature so that eligible lawyers can make multiple attempts at a younger age. There should be provisions for revaluation and providing photocopies of answer scripts.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 10:50:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/apex-court-finds-hc-violated-recruitment-guideline/article7291340.ece

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