A Supreme Court Bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice B.R. Gavai, and Justice Aniruddha Bose heard an I.A. filed by two judicial officers in the cadre of Delhi Judicial Service for modification of orders passed in 2002 and 2010.

The Apex Court has modified and reduced the minimum qualifying service to 7 years from 10 years for promotion to Delhi Higher Judicial Service (DHJS) under the 25% quota of Limited Department Competitive Examination (LDCE).

The Court had previously observed that there must be an incentive amongst the relatively junior and other officers to excel and get quicker promotion. Therefore, the Court observed that to achieve the same, there should be two methods for appointment by promotion. To ensure the same, the Court directed that 50% of the total posts in the Higher Judicial Service must be filled by promotion on the basis of principle of merit­cum­seniority and the remaining 25% of posts in the service should be filled by promotion strictly on the basis of merit through LDCE for which the qualifying service as a Civil Judge (Senior Division) should be not less than 5 years.

In pursuance of the directions of the Court, the High Court of Delhi amended the Delhi Higher Judicial Service (Amendment) Rules, 2008.

However, at a later stage the Court found that it was difficult to find candidates for LDCE for the 25% posts reserved for the said category and in many High Courts, the posts remained unfilled. Therefore, the Court reduced the said quota from 25% to 10%.

Senior Counsel P.S. Patwalia appeared on behalf of the judicial officers and Senior Counsel A.D.N. Rao appeared on behalf of the High Court of Delhi. Senior Counsel Siddharth Bhatnagar appeared as amicus curiae.

The judicial officers placed their grievance before the Court that for the 10% quota under the LDCE, there are no candidates available for promotion through merit. Further, in ordinary course, a person would get promoted even to DHJS in 10 years. In this premise, the judicial officers­applicants prayed for modification of the previous orders passed by the Court so as to do away with the requirement of 5 years qualifying service as Civil Judge (Senior Division) and modify the same with the requirement of 10 years total qualifying service as Civil Judge.

The position taken by the judicial officers was not disputed by the High Court of Delhi, and they prayed that the previous order be modified and the requirement of 10 years minimum qualifying service be reduced to 7 years minimum qualifying service.

The Bench observed that "It is not in dispute that in the High Court of Delhi, the nature of work to be performed by the Civil Judge (Junior Division) and Civil Judge (Senior Division) is the same. This is a peculiar situation prevailing in the High Court of Delhi where except for the difference in Pay Scale, there is no difference with regard to the powers to be exercised and the duties to be discharged by the said judges."

The Bench made the observation that by way of this peculiar situation, the purpose of providing an incentive to the officers to excel was frustrated.

Therefore, the Bench took the view that the IA should be allowed and it passed orders modifying the previous orders made.

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