The Madhya Pradesh High Court has upheld the rule which prescribed an eligibility criteria of at least three years practice or 70 per cent marks in law graduation for entry-level judicial service candidates in the State of Madhya Pradesh.

Stressing that excellence must take precedence over mediocrity, the Bench of Chief Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Vishal Mishra observed that, "The amendment is to ensure that outstanding law graduates with a brilliant academic career are eligible to compete for the exam in comparison with those law graduates who are not. The object is to ensure that such outstanding law graduates with a brilliant academic career would result in the qualitative dispensation of justice. It is an endeavour to achieve excellence. Excellence should always have precedence over mediocrity. Only because some of the petitioners do not qualify to compete in the exam will not render the impugned amendment as either unconstitutional or ultra vires the Constitution. The object to render quality justice to the litigants far outweighs the individual need of the petitioners to secure an employment. Even otherwise, the option to the candidate is twofold, either to apply as an advocate with three years practice or as an outstanding law graduate with a brilliant academic career, who has secured 70% marks in aggregate in the first attempt. Therefore, there is no denial of an opportunity as claimed by the petitioners."

It was further said that, "It is a high time that the judiciary also competes on excellence in order to ensure that excellent results are achieved. It is only when a brilliant law graduate with a brilliant academic career is selected as a judge, that one can be sure that the judgments will be qualitative. All this goes to enhance the quality of the judgments which, in turn, affects the litigants at large. The object of the High Court to achieve these results, in our considered view, does not call for any interference whatsoever. It cannot be just a dream of a candidate to become a judge. One has to possess the highest of standards to join the judiciary. A mere desire to compete in the exam to become a judge is not sufficient. One has to deserve and then desire."

Counsel Utkarsh Kumar Sonkar appeared for the petitioner, while Deputy AG Bramhadatt Singh, along with others, appeared for the respondents.

A set of petitions challenged the amendment to Rule 7 of the Madhya Pradesh Judicial Service (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 1994, which was notified the previous year.

Under the amended rule, candidates were required to either have three years of experience as a 'practising' advocate or be an 'outstanding' law graduate with a 'brilliant academic career', having passed all exams on the first attempt with specified marks. The requirement of three years' experience at the Bar had been removed earlier, following the Supreme Court's 2002 decision in All India Judges Association And Ors vs Union Of India And Ors, where the Court accepted the recommendation of the Shetty Commission.

The Court stressed that Article 51A(j) of the Constitution of India postulates that an endeavor should be made to strive towards excellence, and that if the High Court has chosen to enhance the standards, it is in tune with constitutional obligations.

The Court also was of the considered view that if brilliant law graduates with an outstanding academic career join the judiciary, the same not only satisfies the recommendations of the Shetty Commission, the judgment passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court but more importantly the litigant is assured of a quality judgment.

Dismissing the petitions, the Court observed that, "The interest of providing quality justice to the litigants is paramount and imminent. In the process of achieving a social good, the interest of the writ petitioners and a few others cannot take precedence. The interest of the society and litigants at large would far outweigh the personal desire of the petitioners. In case the contentions of the petitioners are accepted, then, it only ensures maintenance of status-quo of a low standard that has been existing for decades. For decades a minimum qualification was sufficient. There has been no attempt in order to ensure the enhancement of quality. It is for the first time that the High Court has attempted to do so. It is being done in the larger interest of the litigants and the society at large."


Petitioner: Counsel Utkarsh Kumar Sonkar

Respondents: Deputy Advocate General Bramhadatt Singh, Senior Counsel Aditya Adhikari, Counsels Satish Chaturvedi, Eijaz Nazar Siddiqui

Cause Title: Devansh Kaushik vs The State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr.

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