Mumbai: The Bombay High Court recently dismissed a plea challenging shorthand or typing test as a selection criterion for promotion to the post of Private Secretary to judges of the High Court. Division Bench of Justices Ranjit More and N J Jamadar passed a judgment to this effect while dismissing petitions filed by employees working as 'Personal Assistants' in the High Court, who had sought exemption from being subject to the shorthand/typing test qualification criterion. In doing so, the Bench also highlighted that the prescription of shorthand test is necessary for maintaining the efficiency in the administration of justice. This being the same, the court held,
“The Private Secretaries to the Judges play an important role in taking down dictations and writing judgments, and, if merit is not given its due consideration and appointments are made on the basis of seniority, then it would be difficult for any Judge to discharge his obligation”.
The petitioners had approached the Court after a representation made to do away with the shorthand test for promotion to Private Secretary was rejected by a High Court administrative committee this year.
While challenging this rejection, the petitioners pointed out that Rule 13 of the High Court Appellate Side Service Rules, 2000, which dealt with the selection of private secretaries to judges, did not envisage a shorthand test as selection criteria. Consequently, the petitioners sought direction from the Court to the High Court Administration that they be promoted to the post of Private Secretary without conducting shorthand test.
The petitioners highlighted that they could not be subjected to taking the shorthand test again, given that they had already cleared it prior to their appointment as Personal Assistants.
It may be noted that when shorthand tests were introduced for the first time as selection criteria by the then High Court Chief Justice, the same was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of The Chief Justice of Bombay Vs B S Nayak and Ors.
The Supreme Court, in the BS Nayak case, held that in absence of any rules framed by the Court or the Chief Justice, the direction of the Chief Justice to hold shorthand tests operates in the field of appointment. Subsequently, the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, framed Bombay High Court Appellate Side Service Rules, 2000, wherein Rule 13 regulated appointment to the post of Private Secretary