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R. Poornima & Ors. Versus Union of India & Ors.
Court / Forum : Supreme Court of India Citation : 2020 SCC OnLine SC 714 Coram : Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian Subject : Article 217(2)(a) and (b) of the Constitution of India Date of Decision : September 4, 2020
The Petitioners were appointed as Entry Level District Judges by way of direct recruitment in February, 2011. At the time of their appointment, the Petitioners had an experience of more than 10 years as practising advocates.
When vacancies arose for elevation to the High Court as Judges, as against the 1/3rd quota meant to be filled up from among the State Judicial Officers, the Collegium of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh found that the Petitioners had not completed 10 years of service in a Judicial Office as required by Article 217(2)(a) of the Constitution of India (“Constitution”).
The Petitioners were aggrieved by the action of the Collegium of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, as despite being the senior-most in the cadre of District Judges, the Petitioners have been overlooked and their juniors were recommended for elevation to the High Court as Judges.
Thus, the Petitioners filed the writ petition challenging the action of the Collegium of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh.
Whether the sub-clauses (a) and (b) of Article 217(2) along with Explanations (a) and (aa) shall be applied simultaneously while determining the eligibility of a person for the appointment as a Judge of High Court?
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that, Article 233(2) of the Constitution provides for two sources of recruitment; one is from judicial service, and the other is from Bar. If a person is found to have satisfied the eligibility criteria, then he must take his place in one of the queues.
Further, the queue to which a person is assigned, depends upon his status on the date of consideration. If a person is an advocate on the date of consideration, he can take his place only in the queue meant for members of the Bar. Similarly, if a person is a judicial officer on the date of consideration, he shall take his chance only in the queue meant for service candidates. However, a person cannot hop on and hop off from one queue to another.
It was also observed that, the Petitioners cannot invoke Explanation (a) of Article 217 of the Constitution to club the experience Petitioner had at the Bar before joining judicial service, to claim eligibility for considering them for elevation as High Court Judges, as it applies only to those who have become advocates after having held a judicial office.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court while dismissing the writ petition held that, the condition for such addition of some other period, under Explanation (a) is that such other period should have followed and not preceded the judicial service, which is made clear by the use of the words “after he has held any judicial office” in the said explanation.