Not Enough Material To Warrant A Deviation From Established Course Of Action: Supreme Court Rejects Haryana's Bid To Alter Judicial Officer Recruitment Process
The Supreme Court rejected State of Haryana’s request to change the process of recruiting judicial officers and upheld the established procedure, emphasizing the need for a committee involving High Court representatives, the state government, and the Public Service Commission to fill the vacancies promptly. The main issues in the case pertained to the filling of 175 vacancies for Junior Civil Judges and the procedure for conducting these recruitments.
A three judge Bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra held, “we are of the view that the State Government has not placed sufficient material before this Court to warrant a deviation from the course of action which has been pursued since 2007, for over fifteen years, including, as recently as by the notification dated 14 December 2020.”
An application had been filed by the State of Haryana seeking two directions:
- The recruitment of judicial officers in the Judicial Branch of the Haryana Civil Service be conducted in accordance with the provisions of Part C of the Punjab Civil Service (Judicial Branch) Rules 19512 (as applicable to State of Haryana); and
- The order of this Court dated 12 February 2009 in IA 60 of 2008 filed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana be modified.
Advocate Ejaz Maqbool appeared for the Appellants and Senior Advocate Lokesh Sinhal appeared for the Respondents.
The Court reproduced what was said in order dated January 4, 2007, by the Supreme Court where it had emphasized the importance of an independent and efficient judicial system as part of the basic structure of the Constitution. It had noted that the insufficient number of judges compared to the large number of pending cases contributed to delays in the dispensation of justice.
The court had said that selections should be conducted in accordance with existing Judicial Service Rules in each state/union territory but suggested that High Courts could gradually take over the selection process from Public Service Commissions. Some states had already entrusted the selection of subordinate judicial officers to their High Courts.
The Court noted that the selection process in Haryana was conducted under the supervision of a Committee consisting of High Court representatives, state government officials, and Public Service Commission members. In 2020, Haryana amended its rules to facilitate the selection process under a Committee, including members from the High Court, state government, and Public Service Commission.
The State Government now sought to conduct the entire selection process through the Public Service Commission, deviating from the established practice.
However, the Court said that the established practice, wherein a committee involving the High Court oversees the selection process, should continue for the sake of integrity and independence.
The Court further observed that Rule 7B of the Rules was amended in 2020 to allow the involvement of a committee comprising High Court representatives, government officials, and the Public Service Commission. This consistent practice should not be disrupted without substantial justification. The Court said, “It is undisputed that since 2007 Rule 7B has been substituted so as to allow for the selection process to be conducted under the supervision of 12 a Committee consisting of three representatives of the High Court and three persons representing the State Government, including the Public Service Commission. This arrangement has been followed even in the previous recruitment which was conducted pursuant to the notification dated 14 December 2020.”
The Court said, “The consistent pattern which has been followed by the State Government is that recruitment to the judicial service has been entrusted to a Selection Committee, as noted above. If the State Government wished to bring about any change in that position, it was incumbent upon it to consult the High Court and to do so based on cogent material bearing on objective data indicating the justification for abrogating the involvement of the High Court in conducting the selection examination and overseeing the process. The State Government has, during the course of its submissions, set out only two grounds for the proposed departure”
The Supreme Court rejected the State Government's request to modify the existing arrangement finding that the State Government had not provided sufficient justification for this deviation, and the High Court's involvement had been consistent for over a decade.
The Court said that recruitment process should proceed urgently to fill the 175 vacancies keeping in mind the urgent need.
The Court directed, “The State Government shall, therefore, within a period of two weeks from the date of this order, take necessary steps to ensure that the recruitment is conducted by a Committee consisting of (i) three Judges of the High Court nominated by the Chief Justice; (ii) the Chief Secretary of the State of Haryana; (iii) the Advocate General of Haryana; and (iv) the Chairperson of the Haryana Public Service Commission.”
Cause Title: Malik Mazhar Sultan & Anr. v. U P Public Service Commission & Ors., [2023INSC860]