Only 11 out of 15,089 advocates who appeared in the direct recruitment examinations in the last five years could become district judges (entry level) in Madhya Pradesh. And in three of those five examinations, not one advocate was found suitable.
The bar in Madhya Pradesh has accused the judiciary of bias in the selection process conducted by the high court. The trend was only marginally better in the previous four examinations until 2010, when 26 of 12,011 advocates could make the grade.
If that wasn’t troubling enough for advocates, they now to stand to lose out on 69 judges’ posts previously earmarked for direct recruitment; that quota has now been transferred to civil judges (senior division) following a recent amendment to Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Service (Recruitment and Service Condition) Rules, 1994. The new rule, which the advocates want repealed, says that if posts meant for direct recruitment remain vacant after two consecutive selection processes they will be filled by promoting civil judges (senior division).
Vacancies in entry-level higher judicial service (additional judge to the district court and the courts of additional district judge, sessions judge and additional sessions judge) are filled from among eligible advocates and civil judges (senior division) in the ratio 25 to 75, with separate examinations held for them. Advocates allege that their exam is deliberately made tough to screen them out while the other one has standards relaxed.
The state bar council has alleged the amendment was effected without the sanction of the Supreme Court and has been implemented with retrospective effect. The last examination for advocates was held on May 16 and 17 and interviews on August 22. The amendment dated August 13 was notified on August 22.
Of the 4,042 advocates who took the last examination for 84 vacant posts, only nine were selected. Of the 75 vacancies, 69 have now been transferred. “It’s judicial dadagiri. The selection process is planned to fail the advocates.
The amendment is not constitutional,’’ office-bearer of State Bar Council Shivendu Upadhyay told The Indian Express.
“The amendment has created an environment of suspicion,’’ bar council vice-chairman Dinesh Pathak said in a representation to the Chief Justice of the High Court. “Continuous failure doesn’t indicate fault of the examinee but of the process of the examination,’’ said advocate Raj Bahoran Singh Chauhan, who failed the last exam and plans to move a PIL against the process.
The examination has no provision for re-evaluation and the high court does not entertain complaints.
Before they become eligible for the written examination in Jabalpur, advocates will have to appear for an online prelim on January 24; judicial officers won’t. Calling it another form of discrimination, Chauhan said, “Civil judges find it difficult to clear a substandard internal departmental examination for promotion. Why should they not be asked to take the preliminary examination as well?”
Ved Prakash, registrar general of the High Court, dismissed the allegations of bias, saying the examination is conducted with highest integrity and after taking all due precautions. “There is no question of compromise, because the process is meant to select ADJs who preside over criminal trials involving the death sentence.’’ Referring to the amended rule, Prakash said the Supreme Court’s permission was not required.