Monday, 22 June 2015

Promotion of judges in trial courts under scanner

NEW DELHI: With the Supreme Court scrutinizing Parliament's decision to replace an opaque collegium system with National Judicial Appointments Commission, the Delhi High Court has entertained a senior trial judge's petition alleging that subordinate judiciary promotions were as non-transparent and arbitrary.

The Centre has strongly defended the NJAC saying the collegium system, which operated for nearly 20 years, had an inbuilt opaqueness on criteria adopted by the team of senior-most Supreme Court judges headed by the Chief Justice of India for selecting judges for the apex court and high courts.

Almost identical allegations were made by additional district and sessions judge Sujata Kohli in her petition before the Delhi HC. Her petition reflected long standing grievances of many senior judges in subordinate judiciary who feel that promotion policies for lower court judges adopted by various high courts are arbitrary and non-transparent.A bench of Justices G S Sistani and Sangeeta Dhingra Sehgal has issued notice to the Delhi HC, asking it to file response to the allegations made by Kohli in her petition.

Kohli had joined the Delhi Higher Judicial Services in 2002 and stood third in the merit list. Through advocate Sanjay Jain, she alleged that the HC had changed the criteria for promotion several times and, worse, these criteria had never been intimated to judicial officers.

She said in April 2009, the Delhi HC adopted a new criteria for promotion to the post of district and sessions judge, laying down that additional sessions judges eligible for promotion must have at least one 'A' rating in the annual confidential report in the last five years prior to consideration for promotion.

However, the criteria was changed in January 2010 and again in January 2011 to provide that for promotion to the post of district and sessions judge, an additional district and sessions judge must have had five 'A' ratings in his/her ACR in the last five years.

Kohli had got B+ rating and in recognition of her high disposal rate, the HC had granted her 'super time scale' in December last year. She said, "Laying down different criteria without even communicating it to the concerned officers has seriously jeopardized the promotion prospects in the higher judicial services."

Being aggrieved by the denial of promotion, which was given to her juniors, she said, "The HC has not given due weight to seniority, which was a criterion when petitioner was appointed/selected to the cadre of district judge. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the HC has been continuously altering the criteria for promotion to the post of district and sessions judge based on full court resolutions by resorting to Rule 27, which are not even communicated to the additional district judges," she said.

"The system overall has had a seriously demoralizing effect on the members of the higher judicial service as they are no longer in a position to know or adjust themselves in a manner that allows them to determine their future. Non-communications of reasons for ratings given in ACRs hinder the ability of the judge to appreciate her/his weak points or appeal against an unfair grading," she said.

Seeking quashing of the non-transparent criteria adopted by the HC for promotion to posts of district and sessions judges, the petitioner said the appeal against unfair grading in ACRs too go before the same judges who have given the assessment breaching the principle of natural justice.
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