NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Monday asked the Centre to reply to a PIL which has challenged the rules for appointing of judicial members in tribunals alleging that they bar advocates from applying.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the ministries of finance, law and justice and personnel seeking their stand on the plea by a lawyer who has also challenged the recent advertisement inviting applications for judicial members in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).
Advocate Tushar Sannu, appearing for the petitioner-lawyer Arun Kumar Panwar, urged the court to pass an interim order allowing lawyers to apply for the post of judicial members in CAT as the last date for doing so is August 21.
The court however declined to pass any interim order at this stage and listed the matter for hearing on September 7.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said the rules have also been challenged in the Supreme Court and are pending adjudication there.
Panwar has challenged the constitutional vires of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules 2020, which were notified in February, claiming that they exclude lawyers from being considered for appointment to the posts of judicial members.
The petition, filed through Sannu and advocate Ankita Bhadouriya, has contended that with the framing of the rules all the advocates who have put in years of practice in law would not be able to become judicial members in any tribunal.
The petition also brought to the attention of the bench a Madras High Court order of July 31 directing the Centre to accept the applications of advocates, who claim to be eligible for appointment to the post of Presiding Officer of Debt Recovery Tribunal.
The petition has also said that the Kerala High Court on July 27 issued notice to the Centre in a writ petition challenging the exclusion of lawyers in the selection for the post of judicial members in the CAT.
Panwar has said in his plea that earlier under the Administrative Tribunals Act an advocate having 10 years practice in the High Court can be appointed as a judicial member as he is qualified to be appointed as a judge of a High Court.
Under the newly framed rules this position has changed and now only a High Court judge, including those retired, or a person who was District Judge for 10 years or a person who was Secretary for one year in the Department of Legal Affairs or Additional Secretary for two years are eligible to be judicial members of a tribunal, the petition has said.
"Thus, the lawyers with more than 10 years practice who could be appointed as the judicial member of the tribunal are completely excluded.
Instead the same is now reserved for a government secretary having one year in the Department of Legal Affairs or Additional Secretary for two years in the Department of Legal Affairs," it has said.
It has also said that a person can be appointed as a Chairman of the tribunal if, he is or has been the judge of a High Court or has for a period of not less than three years held the office as administrative member or judicial member in the CAT.
"Thus, a government secretary on getting appointment as judicial member and continuing as three years can become the Chairman.
At the same time a High Court judge appointed as a judicial member has to continue as a judicial member under the above said person as Chairman.
"Thus a High Court judge will be constrained to function as a judicial member under the Chairmanship of a government secretary who functioned for one year (in Department of Legal Affairs)," the petition has said.