Reported By: Ankita Bhardwaj
Recruitment has always been a matter of great concern attracting a lot of friction of ideas no matter which field it is. At present, a similar tussle is being faced by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India wherein a writ petition has been filed challenging the ongoing Recruitment Process of Judicial Members for the nineteen Central Administrative Tribunals across India.
The petition is being filed on behalf of the former senior Additional Advocate General of the State of Himachal Pradesh, Mr Rajinder Singh Dogra challenging the Internal Shortlisting Criteria fixed by the Search-cum-Selection Committee operating under the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India wherein, Advocates having crossed the age of 57 years are deemed to be ineligible for appointment as Judicial members of CAT as it violates Section 3 and 5 of the Tribunals Reform Act, 2021.
The sections explicitly mention the minimum age for appointment as 50 years old and the maximum age for retirement as 67 years old with four-year renewable tenures. In December 2022, the circular regarding the vacancies available and inviting applications for appointments as such Judicial Member in various Central Administrative Tribunal was issued wherein no fixation of a maximum age limit for either Advocates or Former Judges.
The petitioner contended that the internal criteria fixed by the Committee is contrary to the vacancy circular as well as the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021. Also, it is arbitrary as the internal criteria is only in respect of Advocates and not applicable to former High Court or Supreme Court Judges. Thus it should be quashed and it needs to be ensured that the recruitment process is carried out in accordance with the Vacancy Circular. To strengthen the contentions, the petitioner referred to the past judgements of the top court wherein the supreme court itself prohibited the government bodies from the fixation of such arbitrary internal criteria for government posts and jobs.
The present case was mentioned before a bench headed by Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Dr Justice DY Chandrachud on 23rd March 2023, considering the gravity of the issue raised, Petitioner was granted urgent listing on 29th March 2023.
Also, among this tussle, it cannot be overlooked that citizen’s right to access justice cannot be impinged due to these issues. Keeping this in mind, In the year 2022 while hearing the case of Central Administrative Tribunal (Principal Bench) Bar Association, New Delhi v Union of India & Ors, the Supreme Court by an order dated 13.05.2022, taking note of the vacancies in the Central Administrative Tribunals, had exercised power under Article 142 of the Constitution to permit the incumbents to continue functioning beyond their term, subject to their consent and availability.
Recently the High Court of Telangana is also facing one such petition wherein the eligibility of Sudhi Ranjan Mishra as a judicial member of Hyderabad CAT is challenged on the ground that she is not having any prior experience is certainly a disqualification. No notice was issued to Mishra regarding this although notices are issued to Centre, Delhi CAT authorities. The matter is posted for further hearing on April 11.
ADVOCATES FOR THE PETITIONER :
The Supreme Court Advocate, Mr Aditya Manubarwala, who holds an LL.M degree from the University of Cambridge, has drawn the writ petition. It was subsequently filed by Advocate on Record, Mr Bharat T. Manubarwala.