Read order: M Vasudevan & Ors. vs. The Registrar General & Ors.

Pankaj Bajpai

Chennai, July 27, 2021: The Madras High Court has ruled that the earlier roster position of a judge, recruited after applying the roster system for reservation, will not determine the judge’s seniority vis à vis other recruited judges. 

The ruling was passed considering the disadvantage a meritorious reserved category candidate would suffer if the roster system is followed in deciding seniority. 

Rather, the High Court said that once judges have been recruited after following the roster system for reservation, their seniority thereafter would be determined based on the marks obtained during the recruitment exam alone. 

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy observed that the roster position would not determine the seniority of the recruits in any recruitment process. 

“When merit is given recognition by treating an MRC to be entitled to a general category seat, the position that may have been occupied by the MRC in the roster is lost to him and he occupies a lower slot on the roster. In such a scenario, if the roster system is taken to be the order of seniority among the recruited candidates, it would result in an MRC being penalized for his merit,” observed the Bench. 

At the same time, the High Court clarified that the present ruling will neither affect the promotions already carried out, nor will be applicable to civil judge recruitment predating the 2009 recruitment. 

The petitions were filed by judicial officers who were recruited in 2009. They challenged a seniority list prepared on the basis of recruitment to the post of Civil Judge as completely flawed. 

The High Court explained that the idea of the roster system is to ensure that the seniority of the persons inducted to the post of Civil Judge (Junior Division) from 2009 onwards has to be determined in accordance with the marks obtained by the successful candidates in the recruitment examination such that the appointee with the highest marks will be placed in the first position and the appointee with the lowest marks among the successful candidates will be placed in the last position in the list prepared according to seniority, irrespective of, and completely without reference to, the positions such appointees may have occupied on the 200-point roster. 

The Supreme Court in the case of Bimlesh Tanwar vs. State of Haryana and the Madras High Court in the case of N Santosh Kumar vs. The Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission, have held that the “roster system is only for the purpose of ensuring that the quantum of reservation is reflected in the recruitment process, and it has nothing to do with the inter se seniority, among those recruited,” noted the Bench. 

The Bench added that in the pyramidal hierarchy that exists in the Indian judiciary, there is the district judiciary, referred to as the subordinate judiciary which is made up of three tiers, then there are the High Courts which exercise superintendence over the district judiciary and finally there is the Supreme Court which exercises the authority to declare the law of the land under Article 141 of the Constitution

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