Judicial officers’ promotions: HC says recommendations are binding on Haryana govt - Hindustan Times
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Judicial officers’ promotions: HC says recommendations are binding on Haryana govt

By, Chandigarh
Dec 21, 2023 11:20 AM IST

The HC bench of justice GS Sandhawalia and justice Lapita Banerjee also imposed a cost of ₹50 thousand per litigant for “unwarranted delay”

The Punjab and Haryana high court (HC) has held that HC recommendations on appointment of judicial officers are binding on the state government and directed that 13 officers who were recommended for appointment as additional district and sessions’ judges (ADJs) be appointed within two weeks.

It further recorded that when the principle of merit had been settled across the board for both the states of Punjab and Haryana in promotions. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
It further recorded that when the principle of merit had been settled across the board for both the states of Punjab and Haryana in promotions. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The HC bench of justice GS Sandhawalia and justice Lapita Banerjee also imposed a cost of 50 thousand per litigant for “unwarranted delay”.

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The court was hearing a bunch of petitions in which the state government had not accepted the recommendations and asked the HC to send the names again. The government’s view was that as per a legal opinion obtained from the Centre, the high court through a resolution of November 30, 2021, made modifications in the criterion for filling up these vacancies. The requirement of consultation for amending the rules is mandatory. Since consultation did not take place with the state government, Haryana was not bound to accept the recommendations of the selection committee of the high court.

Thirteen names were recommended by the HC for appointment as ADJs in February. However, as the government did not notify the names, on September 6, some judicial officers, approached the high court on judicial side seeking directions to the state government to conclude the process of selection and notification of appointments. Subsequently, the government asked the high court to send fresh names, a decision which was under challenge in these petitions.

The high court said that the state government could not have consulted the Centre on the issue and that its act of seeking a legal opinion of “third party was not justified”.

“…for the state now to hold out that it is not for this court that what are the qualities the judicial officer should possess for promotion to the post of additional district judge …. it would seek opinion from a third party namely the Union of India would amount to a serious assault on the independence of the functioning of the high court,” the bench said. The court said that the state had never been denied the opportunity to further consult by the high court.

It further recorded that when the principle of merit had been settled across the board for both the states of Punjab and Haryana in promotions. High court’s action was in no manner “arbitrary” and can’t be questioned once the officers had been given fair and reasonable consideration for promotion. It further added that the high court being the constitutional authority and the recommendations being binding having been consistently held by the apex court would give power to the HC to direct that the recommendations be duly given primacy and state government be directed to act upon it. Hence, issued a direction on the judicial side to the state to accept the recommendations made by the high court administration.

“It would be even more disastrous to the context that one of the states has already accepted the said recommendations and 13 judicial officers have already been promoted to the said post in Punjab. To permit the State of Haryana to the contrary would open a pandora box for the high court which has jurisdiction over two states and was striving to follow a unified policy,” the HC bench recorded.

It further highlighted that it was paramount to expeditiously make appointments. For the efficient functioning of the system in Haryana where there are at present 41 vacancies, it is the moral/legal and constitutional obligation of the state to comply with the recommendations of the high court, it said referring to the data on pending cases of the period when Haryana did not notify these appointments and Punjab did otherwise. Pendency has gone up during the period from April 1 to November 1 by 9,112 cases in Haryana, whereas in Punjab it has gone down by 50 cases. As on November 1 Punjab had 2.66 lakh cases pending while 2.80 lakh in Haryana.

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