R. Poornima and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors.
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 1172 OF 2019
Facts of the Case
A writ petition filed by eight judicial officers alleged that the Madras High Court collegium ignored their names and instead recommended their "juniors" for elevation as judges of the High Court. They contended that a majority of them had completed 10 years of practice as lawyers before being recruited as District Judges on February 18, 2011. In 2017, they had also completed six years of service in the district judiciary. However, when it came to elevation as High Court judges, the collegium did not consider them. They further contended that “the decision of the High Court collegium in not considering the petitioners for being appointed as judges of the High Court is based on an incorrect interpretation of Article 217(2) of the Constitution and it is violative of Article 217 itself resulting in arbitrariness and it thereby violative of Article 14.”
Article 217 of the constitution reads as:
A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Judge of a High Court unless he is a citizen of India and (a) has for at least ten years held a judicial office in the territory of India; or
(b) has for at least ten years been an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession.
The contention raised by the petitioners was that these provisions are to be interpreted in such a way as to club with their judicial service, the experience that they had at the Bar before joining judicial service.
The bench comprising the Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna V. Ramasubramanian observed that such a benefit of clubbing can be allowed only to a person who held a judicial office and later became an advocate.
The bench, referring to these provisions observed that though according to Explanation (a), the period of service rendered by a person in a judicial office has to be computed by taking into account the period during which he has been an advocate of a high court, such other period should have followed and not preceded the judicial service.
On discrimination under Article 14, the Court observed that, "In fact, Article 217(2) does not guarantee any one with the right to be appointed as a judge of the High Court. In a way, a person holding a judicial office is better placed, as he is assured of a career progression (though in a limited sense) after being placed in something like a conveyor belt. There is no such assurance for an advocate. Therefore, the argument based upon Article 14 does not impress us."