Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of L. Narayana Swamy, CJ and Jyotsna Rewal Dua J. dismissed both writ petitions filed by the petitioners.

The instant case is represented by the counsel Devender K. Sharma for petitioners; and Bipin C. Negi with Komal Chaudhary for Respondent 1, Ashok Sharma with J.K. Verma, Adarsh K. Sharma, Ritta Goswami and Nand Lal Thakur, for Respondent 2 and K.D. Shreedhar with Shreya Chauhan for Respondent 3.

In the instant case, High Court of Himachal Pradesh issued a notification dated 16-04-2019 inviting applications from eligible candidates for appointment as Additional District and Sessions Judges in H.P. Judicial Service in the cadre of District Judges/Additional District Judges. The petitioners have been working as Senior Sub Judges/Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and Central Project Coordinator, respectively, since 22-04-2019 and having more than seven years of experience as Judicial Officers and also as Advocates before becoming Judicial Officers, and in terms of Article 233 (2) of the Constitution of India, the time spent as an Advocate in the Bar considering them eligible in view of the total period spent by them in the legal profession and judicial service submitted their respective applications. The respondent High Court rejected the eligibility of the petitioners; hence, the two writ petitions have been filed, in one seeking directions to respondent 1 to accept the petitioners’ candidatures for H.P. Higher Judicial Services Examination and a another a writ of mandamus to amend Rule 5 (c) of the H.P. Higher Judicial Services Rules, 2004 and also the Notification dated 16-04-2019 for the direct recruitment of District Judges 2019, being inconsistent with Article 233 (2) of the Constitution of India and violative of Articles 14, 16 and 21 of the Constitution.

The Court relied on the Judgment given in Dheeraj Mor v. High Court of Delhi, 2018 4 SCC 619, that the members of judicial service having a combined experience of seven years as lawyer and member of judiciary, are not eligible to apply for direct recruitment as a District Judge.

In addition to the aforesaid position, it would be pertinent to state paragraph no. 47 of the said judgment:

(iv) For the purpose of Article 233 (2), an Advocate has to be continuing in practice for not less than 7 years as on the cutoff date and at the time of appointment as District Judge. Members of judicial service having 7 years’ experience of practice before they have joined the service of having combined experience of 7 years as lawyer and member of judiciary are not eligible to apply for direct recruitment as a District Judge.

(v) The rules framed by the High Court prohibiting judicial service officers from staking claim to the post of District Judge against the posts reserved for Advocates by way of direct recruitment, cannot be said to be ultra vires and are in conformity with Articles 14, 16 and 233 of the Constitution of India.”

In light of the facts and grounds discussed hereinabove, the Court held that both the petitions hold no merit and should be dismissed. [Dhiru Thakur v. High Court of Himachal Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 275, decided on 25-02-2020]

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