The Supreme Court on Friday tore into the Gujarat Government for notifying promotions of District Judges when a matter regarding the promotions was sub-judice before the Supreme Court.
The apex court is hearing a petition challenging the promotions on the ground that the recruitment rules of reserving 60% posts to be filled on merit-cum-seniority basis had been flouted.
Two petitioners have alleged that these appointments are on seniority-cum-merit basis, since both of them had scored more marks than the appointees.
When the apex court issued notices to the Gujarat High Court and the State Government on April 13, 2023, the file was already with the government and it notified the promotions on April 18.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices MR Shah and JB Pardiwala said, “We are prima facie of the opinion that this is nothing but overreaching the court’s process and the present proceedings.”
Court questions “extraordinary urgency”
It directed the Secretary of the State Government to present himself before the court on the next hearing on May 1 to explain the reason for the “extraordinary urgency” in notifying the promotions when the selections were made in 2022. “If we are not satisfied, we will suspend this notification,” Justice Shah asserted.
The court said, “It is very unfortunate” that despite the State Government being aware of the fact that notice had been issued returnable on April 28 in the present proceedings, it went ahead to issue the promotion orders on April 18 after it received the top court’s notice. “We do not appreciate the haste and hurry,” the court said.
Justice Shah asked the High Court to provide the entire merit list on Monday, and added that both the high court and the State Government should have refrained from notifying the promotion.
The court directed the high court to file a reply on whether the promotions were to be given on seniority-cum-merit basis or merit-cum-seniority basis and place the merit list on record.
Justice Shah asserts Supreme court’s power over High Court
When State Counsel Deepanwita Priyanka argued that the notification was passed at the high court’s recommendation, Justice Shah retorted, “It was pending with the State Government” and it passed the promotion orders.
“Notice was returnable on 28th April and you had the audacity to pass the order on 18th April?”, Justice Shah wondered.
When senior advocate Meenakshi Arora representing the promoted officers disputed the maintainability of the petition citing Supreme Court orders that such petitioners should approach the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution, Justice Shah snapped, “Based on the conduct of the High Court and the State Government we will not permit anyone to go to High Court under Article 226.”
Justice Shah asserted, “If the High Court has committed wrong, it has committed wrong. Merely because it has passed an order on the administrative side does not mean we will approve.”
When Arora submitted, “The High Court can always correct itself,” Justice Shah said, “We will correct it. We will not let the High Court flout the rules.” When Arora said all high courts had taken a similar approach, Justice Shah maintained, “We are concerned with the Gujarat High Court.”
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