The Supreme Court on Wednesday, in a Special Leave Petition challenging an order of the Gujarat High Court, refused to entertain the plea by a former NCLT member, Manorama Kumari seeking reappointment to the post. The first prayer was to issue directions to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Union of India, to complete the process of reappointment of the petitioner within the time period. The second prayer was for directions to frame a 'rational and transparent' policy giving emphasis to the legislative mandate in Section 413 of the Companies Act, 2013 in order to maintain the independence of the judicial officers.

It is to be noted, that the High Court in the impugned order dated November 29, 2022, had observed, “Merely because the petitioner has shown her willingness to be considered, merely because she is liable to be considered and merely because she has opted for reappointment, could not be ground to seek writ from the Court that her appointment process may be completed”.

The bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud also comprising Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra heard the matter.

Senior Advocate Percy Kavina appeared for the petitioner.

In the present matter, the petitioner was appointed as a judicial member of the National Company Law Tribunal on June 1, 2016, in terms of section 413 of the Companies Act.

Accordingly, the petitioner held office for 5 years while she had sent her willingness on February 2, 2021, to continue as Judicial Member, of NCLT for another term of 5 years.

It is pertinent to note that the petitioner had already served for a term of five years and stands retired.

Subsequently, the respondent issued a Circular dated July 12, 2022, regarding the filling up of 8 posts of Judicial Member and 11 Posts of Technical Members in the National Company Law Tribunal by inviting online applications.

The para 7 of the Circular read, "Every Member shall hold office for a period of five years from the date on which he/she enters upon his/her office, but shall be eligible for re-appointment for another term of 5 years. The term of appointment is, however, subject to the maximum age limit of sixty-five years."

Therefore, pressing on the same condition, the petitioner contended that she as a member was eligible to be reappointed after consumption of a term of 5 years subject to the maximum age limit of 65 years. It was further highlighted that ‘expeditious appointments stand as the bedrock for the independence of judicial institutions.

However, a bench of Justice N.V. Anjaria and Justice Sandeep N. Bhatt of the Gujarat High Court while refusing to grant relief to the petitioner had observed, “The petitioner's case could be at the best considered along with other aspiring candidates in accordance with law and on its own merits. Upon being queried, learned senior advocate for the petitioner stated that five persons have been seeking appointment as Members of the Tribunal. Any direction or observation in respect of the petitioner in particular to complete the process cannot be granted”.

On the second prayer, the Court had observed, “It has to be only stated in this regard that the authorities cannot be presumed to be not alive to sub-serve the interests of NCLT and act in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court as above. No further direction is necessary”.

Cause Title: Manorama Kumari v. Union of India

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