SC: Appointment of staff in Courts to be in consonance with Art. 14 & 16

Court :
Supreme Court of India

Brief :
The Bench comprising of Justice Dr. B.S. Chauhan, Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice M.Y. Eqbal directed all High Courts to re-examine the statutory rules dealing with the appointment of staff in the High Court as well as in the subordinate courts and in case any of the rule is not in conformity and consonance with the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution, the same may be modified. The Court also held that all vacancies in the High Courts and the subordinate courts should be filled up in strict compliance with the statutory rules and any appointment made in contravention of the statutory rules would be void ab-initio irrespective of any class of the post or the person occupying it.

Citation :
I.R. Coelho (dead) by L.Rs. v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 2007 SC 861 Delhi Development Horticulture Employees’ Union v. DelhiAdministration, Delhi & Ors., AIR 1992 SC 789 Excise Superintendent Malkapatnam, Krishna District, A.P. v. K.B.N. Visweshwara Rao & Ors., (1996) 6 SCC 216 Union of India & Ors. v. N. Hargopal & Ors., AIR 1987 SC 1227 Suresh Kumar & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Ors., (2003) 10 SCC 276



CIVIL APPEAL NO.   979  OF 2014

(Arising out of SLP (C) No. 26090 of 2011)

Renu & Ors.                    …Appellants



District & Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari & Anr.        …Respondents



1. The  matter  initially  related  to  the  appointment  of  Class  IV

employees  in  the  courts  subordinate  to  Delhi  High  Court  as  the

dispute  arose  about  the  continuity  of  the  employees  appointed  on

ad-hoc basis for 89 days which stood extended for the same period

after same interval from time to time. The matter reached the Delhi

High Court  and ultimately before this Court.  This court  vide order

dated  10.5.2012  took up the  matter  in a  larger  perspective  taking

cognizance  of  perpetual  complaints  regarding  irregularities  and

illegalities  in  the  recruitments  of  staff  in  the  subordinate  courts

Page 1

throughout  the  country  and  in  order  to  ensure  the  feasibility  of

centralising  these  recruitments  and  to  make  them transparent  and

transferable. This Court  suo motu issued notice to Registrar Generals

of all the High Courts and to the States for filing their response mainly

on two points viz. (i) why the recruitment be not centralized; and (ii)

why the relevant rules dealing with service conditions of the entire

staff be not amended to make them as transferable posts. All the States

and High Courts have submitted their response and all  of them are

duly represented in the court. 

2. This Court had appointed Shri P.S. Narasimha, learned senior

counsel as Amicus Curiae to assist the court. The matter was heard on

28.1.2014  and  deliberations  took  place  at  length  wherein  all  the

learned counsel appearing for the States as well as for the High Courts

suggested that the matter should be dealt with in a larger perspective

i.e. also for appointments of employees in the High Court and courts

subordinate to the High Court which must include Class IV posts also.

A large number of instances have been pointed out on the basis of the

information received under  the Right  to Information Act,  2005 of

cases not only of irregularity but of favouritism also in making such


Page 2

appointments. It has been suggested by the learned counsel appearing

in the matter that this court  has a duty not only to check illegality,

irregularity,  corruption,  nepotism  and  favouritism  in  judicial

institutions,  but also to provide guidelines to prevent the menace of

back-door entries of employees who subsequently are ordered to be


3. It was in view of the above that this Court vide its earlier orders

had asked learned counsel appearing for the States as well as the High

Courts to examine the records of their  respective States/Courts and

report as to whether a proper and fair procedure had been adopted for

evaluating  the  candidates.  A mixed  response  was  received  from

different counsel on these issues. 

4. In  view  of  the  aforesaid  submissions,  we  do  not  think  it

necessary  to  peruse  the  record  in  order  to  gauge  the  amount  of

irregularities or illegalities. Our basic concern is that the appointments

in judicial institutions must be made on the touchstone of equality of

opportunity  enshrined  in  Article  14  read  with  Article  16  of  the

Constitution  of  India,  1950  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  the

`Constitution’) and under no circumstance any appointment which is


Page 3

illegal should be saved for the reason that the grievance of the people

at large is that complete darkness in the light house has to be removed.

The judiciary which raises  a finger towards actions of every other

wing of the society cannot afford to have this  kind of  accusations

against itself. 

5. Rule of law is the basic feature of the Constitution.  There was a

time when REX was LEX.  We now seek to say LEX is REX.  It is

axiomatic that no authority is above law and no man is above law.

Article 13(2) of the Constitution provides that no law can be enacted

which runs contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part

III of the Constitution.  The object of such a provision is to ensure that

instruments  emanating  from  any  source  of  law,  permanent  or

temporary, legislative or judicial or any other source, pay homage to

the constitutional provisions relating to fundamental rights.  Thus, the

main  objective  of  Article  13  is  to  secure  the  paramountcy  of  the

Constitution especially with  regard to fundamental rights. 

6. The  aforesaid  provision  is  in  consonance  with  the  legal

principle of “Rule of Law” and they remind us of the famous words of

the English jurist, Henry de Bracton – “The King is under no man but


Page 4

under God and the Law”. No one is above law. The dictum – “Be you

ever so high, the law is above you” is applicable to all, irrespective of

his status, religion, caste, creed, sex or culture. The Constitution is the

supreme  law.  All  the  institutions,  be  it  legislature,  executive  or

judiciary, being created under the Constitution, cannot ignore it.

The exercise of powers by an authority cannot be unguided or

unbridled as the Constitution prescribes the limitations for each and

every authority and therefore, no one, howsoever high he may be, has

a right to exercise the power beyond the purpose for which the same

has been conferred on him.  Thus,  the powers have to be exercised

within the framework of the Constitution and legislative provisions,

otherwise it would be an exercise of power in violation of the basic

features of the Constitution i.e. Part III dealing with the fundamental

rights which also prescribes the limitations. 

7. Article  14  of  the  Constitution  provides  for  equality  of

opportunity.  It forms the cornerstone of our Constitution.

In I.R. Coelho (dead) by L.Rs. v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR

2007 SC 861, the doctrine of basic features has been explained by this

Court as under:


Page 5

“The doctrine of basic structure contemplates that there

are certain parts or aspects of the Constitution including

Article 15, Article 21 read with Articles 14 and 19 which

constitute  the  core  values  which  if  allowed  to  be

abrogated  would  change  completely  the  nature  of  the

Constitution.  Exclusion  of  fundamental  rights  would

result in nullification of the basic structure doctrine, the

object  of  which  is  to  protect  basic  features  of  the

Constitution  as  indicated  by  the  synoptic  view of  the

rights in Part III.”

8. As Article 14 is an integral part of our system, each and every

state  action  is  to  be  tested  on  the  touchstone  of  equality.  Any

appointment made in violation of mandate of Articles 14 and 16 of the

Constitution  is  not  only  irregular  but  also  illegal  and  cannot  be

sustained in view of the judgments rendered by this Court  in  Delhi

Development  Horticulture  Employees’  Union  v.  Delhi

Administration, Delhi & Ors., AIR 1992 SC 789; State of Haryana

& Ors. v. Piara Singh & Ors. etc.etc., AIR 1992 SC 2130; Prabhat

Kumar Sharma & Ors. v. State of U.P. & Ors., AIR 1996 SC 2638;

J.A.S. Inter College, Khurja, U.P. & Ors. v. State of U.P. & Ors.,

AIR  1996  SC  3420; M.P.  Housing  Board  &  Anr.  v.  Manoj

Shrivastava,  AIR  2006  SC  3499; M.P.  State  Agro  Industries

Development Corporation Ltd. & Anr. v.  S.C.  Pandey, (2006) 2


Page 6

SCC 716; and  State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors.  v. Ku. Sandhya

Tomar & Anr., JT 2013 (9) SC 139. 

9. In  Excise Superintendent Malkapatnam,  Krishna District,

A.P. v. K.B.N. Visweshwara Rao & Ors., (1996) 6 SCC 216, a larger

Bench of  this  Court  reconsidered its  earlier  judgment in  Union of

India & Ors. v. N. Hargopal & Ors., AIR 1987 SC 1227, wherein it

had  been  held  that  insistence  of  requisition  through  employment

exchanges  advances  rather  than  restricts  the  rights  guaranteed  by

Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. However, due to the possibility

of non sponsoring of names by the employment exchange, this Court

held that any appointment even on temporary or ad hoc basis without

inviting  application  is  in  violation  of  the  said  provisions  of  the

Constitution and even if  the names of  candidates  are requisitioned

from Employment Exchange, in addition thereto, it is mandatory on

the  part  of  the  employer  to  invite  applications  from  all  eligible

candidates from open market as merely calling the names from the

Employment  Exchange  does  not  meet  the requirement  of  the  said

Articles of the Constitution. The Court further observed: 

“In addition, the appropriate department…..should call

for the names by publication in the newspapers having


Page 7

wider circulation and also display on their office notice

…and employment news bulletins; and then consider the

case  of  all  candidates  who  have  applied.  If  this

procedure is adopted, fair play would be sub served. The

equality  of  opportunity  in  the  matter  of  employment

would be available to all eligible candidates.”                

                                                               (Emphasis added)

(See also: Arun Tewari & Ors. v. Zila Mansavi Shikshak Sangh &

Ors.,  AIR 1998 SC 331; and Kishore K. Pati v. Distt. Inspector of

Schools, Midnapur & Ors., (2000) 9 SCC 405). 

10. In Suresh Kumar & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Ors., (2003)

10 SCC 276, this Court upheld the judgment of the Punjab & Haryana

High  Court  wherein  1600  appointments  made  in  the  Police

Department without advertisement stood quashed  though the Punjab

Police Rules, 1934 did not provide for such a course. The High Court

reached the conclusion that process of selection stood vitiated because

there  was  no  advertisement  and  due  publicity  for  inviting

applications from the eligible candidates at large.

11. In  Union Public Service Commission v. Girish Jayanti  Lal

Vaghela & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 1165, this Court held:

“........The appointment to any post  under the State can

only  be  made after  a proper  advertisement has  been


Page 8

made inviting applications from eligible candidates and

holding of selection by a body of experts or a specially

constituted  committee  whose  members  are  fair  and

impartial, through a written examination or interview or

some other rational criteria for judging the inter se merit

of  candidates  who  have  applied  in  response  to  the

advertisement  made…………… Any  regular

appointment made on a post  under the State or Union

without  issuing  advertisement  inviting  applications

from eligible candidates and without holding a proper

selection where all eligible candidates get a fair chance

to  compete  would  violate  the  guarantee  enshrined

under  Article  16  of  the  Constitution....”

(Emphasis added)

12. The  principles  to  be  adopted  in  the  matter  of  public

appointments have been formulated by this Court in M.P. State Coop.

Bank Ltd., Bhopal v. Nanuram Yadav & Ors., (2007) 8 SCC 264 as


 “(1)  The  appointments  made  without  following  the

appropriate  procedure  under  the  rules/government

circulars  and  without  advertisement  or  inviting

applications  from the  open  market  would  amount  to

breach of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.

(2) Regularisation cannot be a mode of appointment.

(3) An appointment made in violation of the mandatory

provisions of the statute and in particular, ignoring the

minimum educational qualification and other essential

qualification  would  be  wholly  illegal.  Such  illegality

cannot be cured by taking recourse to regularisation.


Page 9

(4) Those who come by back-door should go through that


(5)  No regularisation is  permissible  in exercise  of  the

statutory  power  conferred  under  Article  162  of  the

Constitution of India if the appointments have been made

in contravention of the statutory rules.

(6)  The  court  should  not  exercise  its  jurisdiction  on

misplaced sympathy.

(7)  If  the  mischief  played  is  so  widespread  and  all

pervasive, affecting the result, so as to make it difficult to

pick out the persons who have been unlawfully benefited

or wrongfully deprived of their selection, it will neither

be possible nor necessary to issue individual show-cause

notice to each selectee. The only way out would be to

cancel the whole selection.

(8)  When the entire selection is stinking,  conceived in

fraud and delivered in deceit,  individual innocence has

no place and the entire selection has to be set aside.”

13. A similar view has been reiterated by the Constitution Bench of

this Court in Secretary, State of Karnataka & Ors. v. Umadevi &

Ors., AIR 2006 SC 1806, observing that any appointment made in

violation of the Statutory Rules as also in violation of Articles 14 and

16 of the Constitution would be a nullity. “Adherence to Articles 14

and  16  of  the  Constitution  is  a  must  in  the  process  of  public

employment”.  The  Court  further  rejected  the  prayer  that  ad  hoc

appointees working for long be considered for regularisation as such a


Page 10

course only encourages the State to flout its own rules and would

confer  undue  benefits  on  some  at  the  cost  of  many  waiting  to


14. In State of Orissa & Anr. v. Mamata Mohanty, (2011) 3 SCC

436, this  Court  dealt  with the constitutional  principle of  providing

equality of opportunity to all which mandatorily requires that vacancy

must be notified in advance meaning thereby that information of the

recruitment must  be disseminated in a reasonable manner in public

domain ensuring maximum participation of  all  eligible  candidates;

thereby the right of equal opportunity is effectuated.  The Court held

as under:-

“Therefore,  it  is  a  settled  legal  proposition  that  no

person can be appointed even on a temporary or ad hoc

basis  without  inviting  applications  from  all  eligible

candidates.  If  any  appointment  is  made  by  merely

inviting names from the employment exchange or putting

a note on the noticeboard,  etc.  that  will  not  meet  the

requirement  of  Articles  14 and 16 of  the Constitution.

Such a course violates the mandates of Articles 14 and

16  of  the  Constitution  of  India  as  it  deprives  the

candidates  who  are  eligible  for  the  post,  from being

considered.  A  person  employed  in  violation  of  these

provisions is not entitled to any relief including salary.

For  a  valid  and  legal  appointment  mandatory

compliance with the said constitutional requirement is to

be fulfilled. The equality clause enshrined in Article 16

requires  that  every  such  appointment  be  made  by  an


Page 11

open advertisement as to enable all  eligible persons to

compete on merit.”

15. Where any such appointments are made, they can be challenged

in the court of law.  The quo warranto proceeding affords a judicial

remedy by which any person, who holds an independent substantive

public office or franchise or liberty, is called upon to show by what

right he holds the said office, franchise or liberty, so that his title to it

may be duly determined, and in case the finding is that the holder of

the office has no title, he would be ousted from that office by judicial

order.  In  other  words,  the  procedure  of  quo  warranto  gives  the

Judiciary a weapon to control the Executive from making appointment

to  public  office  against  law  and  to  protect  a  citizen  from being

deprived of public office to which he has a right. These proceedings

also tend to protect  the public from usurpers of public office who

might  be  allowed  to  continue  either  with  the  connivance  of  the

Executive or by reason of its apathy. It will, thus, be seen that before a

person can effectively claim a writ of quo warranto, he has to satisfy

the Court that the office in question is a public office and is held by a

usurper without legal authority, and that inevitably would lead to an

enquiry as to whether the appointment of the alleged usurper has been

made in accordance  with law or  not.  For  issuance  of  writ  of  quo


Page 12

warranto, the Court has to satisfy that the appointment is contrary to

the statutory rules and the person holding the post has no right to hold

it.  (Vide: The University of Mysore & Anr. v. C.D. Govinda Rao &

Anr.,  AIR 1965 SC 491;  Shri Kumar Padma Prasad v. Union of

India & Ors.,   AIR 1992 SC 1213;  B.R.  Kapur v. State of Tamil

Nadu & Anr.,  AIR 2001 SC 3435; The Mor Modern Co-operative

Transport Society Ltd. v. Financial Commissioner and Secretary

to Govt., Haryana & Anr., AIR 2002 SC 2513; Arun Singh v. State

of Bihar & Ors.,  AIR 2006 SC 1413;  Hari Bansh Lal  v. Sahodar

Prasad Mahto & Ors.,  AIR 2010 SC 3515; and Central Electricity

Supply Utility of Odisha v. Dhobei Sahoo & Ors.,  (2014) 1 SCC


16. Another important requirement of public appointment is that of

transparency.  Therefore, the advertisement must specify the number

of posts available for selection and recruitment. The qualifications and

other eligibility criteria for such posts should be explicitly provided

and the  schedule  of  recruitment  process  should be  published with

certainty and clarity.  The advertisement should also specify the rules

under which the selection is to be made and in absence of the rules,

the procedure under which the selection is likely to be undertaken.


Page 13

This  is  necessary  to  prevent  arbitrariness  and  to  avoid  change  of

criteria of selection after the selection process is commenced, thereby

unjustly benefiting someone at the cost of others. 

17. Thus, the aforesaid decisions are an authority on prescribing the

limitations while making appointment against public posts in terms of

Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.  What has been deprecated by

this Court time and again is “backdoor appointments or appointment

de hors the rules”.

In  State  of  U.P.  &  Ors.  v.  U.P.  State  Law  Officers

Association & Ors.,  AIR 1994 SC 1654, this Court  while dealing

with the back-door entries in public appointment observed as under:

“The method of appointment is indeed not calculated to

ensure  that  the  meritorious  alone  will  always  be

appointed or that the appointments made will not be on

the considerations other than merit.   In the absence of

guidelines,  the  appointment  may  be  made  purely  on

personal  or  political  consideration  and  be  arbitrary.

This being so those who come to be appointed by such

arbitrary  procedure  can  hardly  complain  if  the

termination of  their appointment is equally arbitrary.

Those who come by the back-door have to go by the

same door….From the inception some engagements and

contracts  may  be  the  product  of  the  operation  of  the

spoils system.   There need be no legal anxiety to save

them.”            (Emphasis added) 


Page 14

18. In Som Raj & Ors.  v. State of Haryana  & Ors., AIR 1990

SC 1176, this Court held as under:  

“The absence of arbitrary power is the first postulate of

rule of law upon which our whole constitutional edifice

is based. In a system governed by Rule of Law, discretion

when  conferred  upon  an  executive  authority  must  be

confined within clearly defined limits. The rules provide

the  guidance  for  exercise  of  the  discretion  in  making

appointment  from  out  of  selection  lists  which  was

prepared on the basis of the performance and position

obtained at the selection. The appointing authority is to

make appointment in the order of gradation, subject to

any other relevant rules like, rotation or reservation, if

any, or any other valid and binding rules or instructions

having force of law. If the discretion is exercised without

any  principle  or  without  any  rule,  it  is  a  situation

amounting to the antithesis of Rule of  Law. Discretion

means sound discretion guided by law or governed by

known  principles  of  rules,  not  by  whim or  fancy  or

caprice of the authority.”

19. In  making  the  appointments  or  regulating  the  other  service

conditions  of the staff of the High Court, the Chief Justice exercises

an administrative power with constitutional backing. This power has

been entrusted to the safe custody of  the Chief Justice in order to

ensure the independence of  the Judiciary, which is one of the vital

organs of a Government and whose authority is to be maintained. The

discretion exercised by the Chief Justice cannot be open to challenge,


Page 15

except on well  known grounds,  that is to say, when the exercise of

discretion is discriminatory or mala fide, or the like(s).  

20. Even under the Constitution, the power of appointment granted

to the Chief Justice under Article 229 (1) is subject to Article 16 (1),

which guarantees equality of  opportunity for all  citizens in matters

relating to employment.  ‘Opportunity’ as used in this Article means

chance of employment and what it guaranteed is that this opportunity

of employment would be equally available to all. 

21. As a safeguard, the Constitution has also recognized that in the

internal administration of the High Court, no other power, except the

Chief  Justice  should  have  domain.  In  order  to  enable  a  judicial

intervention,  it  would  require  only  a  very  strong  and  convincing

argument to show that this power has been abused. If an authority has

exercised his discretion in good faith and not in violation of any law,

such exercise of discretion should not be interfered with by the courts

merely on the ground that it could have been exercised differently or

even that the courts would have exercised it differently had the matter

been brought before it in the first instance or in that perspective.


Page 16

22. Article 235 of the Constitution provides for power of the High

Court  to  exercise  complete  administrative  control  over  the

Subordinate  Courts.  This  control,  undoubtedly,  extends  to  all

functionaries  attached  to  the  Subordinate  Courts  including  the

ministerial staff and servants in the establishment of the Subordinate

Courts.  If  the  administrative  control  cannot  be  exercised  over  the

administrative and ministerial staff,  i.e. if the High Court  would be

denuded  of  its  powers  of  control  over  the  other  administrative

functionaries  and  ministerial  staff  of  the  District  Court  and

Subordinate Courts other than Judicial Officers,  then the purpose of

superintendence provided therein would stand frustrated and such an

interpretation would be wholly destructive to the harmonious, efficient

and  effective  working  of  the  Subordinate  Courts.  The  Courts  are

institutions  or  organism where  all  the  limbs  complete  the  whole

system of  Courts and when the Constitutional provision is of such

wide amplitude to cover both the Courts and persons belonging to the

Judicial Office, there would be no reason to exclude the other limbs of

the Courts, namely, administrative functionaries and ministerial staff

of  its  establishment  from  the  scope  of  control.  Such  control  is

exclusive  in  nature,  comprehensive  in  extent  and  effective  in


Page 17

operation. (Vide:  The State of West Bengal & Anr. v.  Nripendra

Nath  Bagchi,  AIR 1966  SC 447;  Shri  Baradakanta  Mishra  v.

Registrar  of  Orissa  High  Court  & Anr.,  AIR 1974  SC  710;  

Yoginath D. Bagde v. State of Maharashtra & Anr., AIR 1999 SCC

3734; Subedar Singh & Ors. v. District Judge, Mirzapur & Anr.,

AIR 2001 SC 201;  High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan v. P.P.

Singh & Anr.,  AIR 2003 SC 1029; and  Registrar General,  High

Court of Judicature at Madras v. R. Perachi & Ors., AIR 2012 SC


23. In M. Gurumoorthy v. The Accountant General, Assam and

Nagaland & Ors., AIR 1971 SC 1850, the Constitution Bench of this

Court held:

“The unequivocal purpose and obvious intention of the

framers of the Constitution in enacting Article 229 is that

in the matter of appointments of officers and servants of

a High Court it is the Chief Justice or his nominee who is

to  be  the  supreme  authority  and  there  can  be  no

interference by the executive except to the limited extent

that is provided in the Article……Thus, Article 229 has a

distinct  and  different  scheme  and  contemplates  full

freedom  to  the  Chief  Justice  in  the  matter  of

appointments of officers and servants of the High Court

and their conditions of service.”


Page 18

24. In this Case, this Court spelt out the powers of the Chief Justice

of the High Court in the matters of appointment of staff of the High

Court,  but this Court  did not lay down in any way that the Chief

Justice can exercise such powers in contravention of the provisions of

Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution while making appointments in

the establishment of the High Court. 

25. In H.C. Puttaswamy & Ors. v. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of

Karnataka High Court, Bangalore & Ors., AIR 1991 SC 295, while

dealing  with  a  similar  situation  and  interpreting  the  provisions  of

Article 229 (2) of the Constitution and Karnataka State Civil Services

(Recruitment to Ministerial  Posts)  Rules,  1966, this Court  held the

appointments made by the Chief Justice of the High Court  without

advertising the vacancies as invalid being violative of Articles 14 and

16(1) of the Constitution.  The Court came to the said conclusion as

the  appointments  were  made  without  following  the  procedure

prescribed in the Rules. The Court further observed: 

“While  the  administration of  the  Courts  has  perhaps,

never been without its critics, the method of recruitment

followed  by  the  Chief  Justice  appears  to  be  without

parallel…..……The  methodology adopted  by  the  Chief

Justice  was  manifestly  wrong  and  it  was  doubtless


Page 19

deviation from the course of law which the High Court

has to protect and preserve.

The  judiciary  is  the  custodian  of  constitutional

principles which are essential to the maintenance of rule

of  law.  It  is  the vehicle  for the protection of  a set  of

values which are integral part of our social and political

philosophy.  Judges  are  the  most  visible  actors  in  the

administration of  justice.  Their  case  decisions  are the

most publicly visible outcome. But the administration of

justice  is  just  not  deciding disputed  cases.  It  involves

great deal more than that.  Any realistic analysis of the

administration of  justice  in the Courts  must  also take

account of the totality of the judges behaviour and their

administrative roles. They may appear to be only minor

aspects of the administration of justice, but collectively

they  are not  trivial.  They constitute  in our opinion,  a

substantial  part  of  the  mosaic  which  represents  the

ordinary man’s perception of what the Courts  are and

how the Judges go about their work. The Chief Justice is

the prime  force  in the High Court.  Article  229 of  the

Constitution provides  that  appointment  of  officers  and

servants of  the High Court  shall  be made by the Chief

Justice or such other Judge or officer of the Court  as

may be directed by the Chief Justice. The object of this

Article was to secure the independence of the High Court

which  cannot  be  regarded  as  fully  secured  unless  the

authority  to  appoint  supporting  staff  with  complete

control  over them is vested in the Chief Justice. There

can  be  no  disagreement  on  this  matter.  There  is

imperative  need  for  total  and  absolute  administrative

independence of the High Court.  But the Chief Justice

or any other Administrative Judge is not an absolute

ruler. Nor he is a free wheeler. He must operate in the

clean world of law; not in the neighbourhood of sordid

atmosphere. He has a duty to ensure that in carrying

out the administrative functions, he is actuated by same

principles  and  values  as  those  of  the  Court  he  is

serving.  He  cannot  depart  from  and  indeed  must

remain  committed  to  the  constitutional  ethos  and

traditions of his calling. We need hardly say that those


Page 20

who are expected to oversee the conduct of others, must

necessarily maintain a higher standards of ethical and

intellectual  rectitude.  The  public  expectations  do  not

seem to be less exacting.”                      (Emphasis added)

(See also: State of Assam v. Bhubhan Chandra Datta & Anr., AIR

1975 SC 889). 

26. In  Binod Kumar Gupta & Ors.  v. Ram Ashray Mahoto &

Ors., AIR 2005 SC 2103, this Court did not accept the contention that

appointment could be made to Class-IV post  in Subordinate Courts

under the Civil Court Rules without advertisement in the newspapers

inviting  applications  for  the  posts  as  that  would  lead  to  lack  of

transparency and violation of  the provisions  of  Article  16 of  the

Constitution.  The Court  terminated the services of  such appointees

who had worked even for 15 years observing that the Court otherwise

“would  be  guilty  of  condoning  a  gross  irregularity in  their  initial


27. To say  that  the  Chief  Justice  can  appoint  a  person  without

following the procedure provided under Articles 14 and 16 would lead

to an indefinite conclusion that the Chief Justice can dismiss him also

without  holding any inquiry or  following the  principles  of  natural


Page 21

justice/Rules etc., for as per Section 16 of General Clauses Act, 1897

power to appoint includes power to remove/suspend/dismiss.  (Vide:

Pradyat  Kumar Bose  v.  The Hon’ble Chief  Justice  of  Calcutta

High Court, 1956 SC 285; and Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh &

Anr. v. L.V.A. Dikshitulu & Ors., AIR 1979 SC 193).

But  as  no  employee  can  be  removed without  following  the

procedure  prescribed  by  law  or  in  violation  of  the  terms  of  his

appointment,  such  a  course  would  not  be  available  to  the  Chief

Justice. Therefore, the natural corollary of this is that the Chief Justice

cannot make any appointment in contravention of the Statutory Rules,

which have to be in consonance with the scheme of our Constitution.  

28. In  State of West  Bengal & Ors.  v. Debasish Mukherjee &

Ors., AIR 2011 SC 3667, this Court again dealt with the provisions of

Article 229 of the Constitution  and held that the Chief Justice cannot

grant any relief to the employee of the High Court in an irrational or

arbitrary manner unless the Rules provide for such exceptional relief.

The order of the Chief Justice must make reference to the existence of

such exceptional circumstances and the order must  make it so clear

that  there  had  been  an  application  of  mind  to  those  exceptional


Page 22

circumstances  and  such  orders  passed  by  the  Chief  Justice  are

justiciable. While deciding the matter, the court placed reliance on its

earlier judgment of the Constitution Bench in State of U.P.& Ors. v.

C.L. Agrawal & Anr., AIR 1997 SC 2431. 

29. Thus, in view of the above, the law can be summarised to the

effect that the powers under Article 229 (2) of the Constitution cannot

be  exercised  by  the  Chief  Justice  in  an  unfettered  and  arbitrary

manner.  Appointments  should  be  made  giving  adherence  to  the

provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution and/or such Rules

as made by the legislature. 

30. In today’s system,  daily labourers  and casual  labourers  have

been  conveniently  introduced  which  are  followed  by  attempts  to

regularise them at a subsequent stage.  Therefore, most of the times

the  issue  raised  is  about  the  procedure  adopted  for  making

appointments indicating an improper exercise of discretion even when

the rules specify a particular mode to be adopted.  There can be no

doubt that the employment whether of Class IV, Class III,  Class II or

any other class in the High Court or courts subordinate to it fall within

the  definition  of  “public  employment”.  Such  an  employment,


Page 23

therefore,  has  to  be  made  under  rules  and  under  orders  of  the

competent authority. 

31. In a democratic set up like ours, which is governed by rule of

law,  the supremacy of  law is  to be acknowledged and absence  of

arbitrariness has been consistently described as essence of rule of law.

Thus,  the powers  have to be canalised and not  unbridled so as to

breach the basic structure of the Constitution. Equality of opportunity

in matters of employment being the constitutional mandate has always

been observed. The unquestionable authority is always subject to the

authority of  the  Constitution.   The  higher  the  dignitary,  the  more

objectivity is expected to be observed. We do not say that powers

should be curtailed. What we want to say is that the power can be

exercised only to the width of the constitutional and legal limits.  The

date of retirement of every employee is well known in advance and

therefore, the number of vacancies likely to occur in near future in a

particular  cadre  is  always  known  to  the  employer.  Therefore,  the

exercise to fill up the vacancies at the earliest must start in advance to

ensure that the selected person may join immediately after availability

of  the  post,  and hence,  there  may be  no occasion to appoint  any


Page 24

person on ad-hoc basis for the reason that the problem of inducting the

daily  labourers  who  are  ensured  of  a  regular  appointment

subsequently has to be avoided and a fair procedure must be adopted

giving equal opportunity to everyone. 

32. It has been rightly said: 

“Perfection consists  not  in  doing  extraordinary  things,

but in doing ordinary things extraordinary well.”

33. We had the advantage of the response given by the High Courts

and the State.  Some of the States like Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya

Pradesh,  Orissa,  Sikkim and Uttrakhand have  pointed  out  in their

respective affidavits that the recruitment of most of the posts are made

by  centralised  selection  and  some  of  those  posts  are  transferable.

Some States like Jharkhand have pointed out that there is a centralised

recruitment  of  all  the posts  but  division wise  and are  transferable

within the division.  Some of the States like Punjab & Haryana and

Uttar Pradesh have pointed out that they have already drafted the rules

providing for centralised recruitment.  The State of Himachal Pradesh

and  the  High  Court  thereof  have  shown  inclination  towards  the

centralised recruitment.  In the State of Madhya Pradesh, though rules


Page 25

do not provide for centralised recruitment but it is so done under the

administrative order of  the Chief Justice of  the High Court.   Other

States and the High Courts have also made suggestions that it is the

need of the hour to provide for centralised recruitment.  

34. We  would  like  to  make  it  clear  that  the  High  Court  is  a

constitutional  and  an  autonomous  authority  subordinate  to  none.

Therefore, nobody can undermine the constitutional authority of the

High Court,  and therefore the purpose to hear this case is only to

advise the High Court that if its rules are not in consonance with the

philosophy of our Constitution and the same may be modified and no

appointment in contravention thereof should be made. It is necessary

that  there  is  strict  compliance  with  appropriate  Rules  and  the

employer is bound to adhere to the norms of Articles 14 & 16 of the

Constitution before making any recruitment.

35. In view of the above, the appeal stands disposed of  with the

following directions:

i) All High Courts are requested to re-examine the statutory rules

dealing with the appointment of staff in the High Court as well

as in the subordinate courts and in case any of the rule is not in


Page 26

conformity and consonance with the provisions of Articles 14

and 16 of the Constitution, the same may be modified.

ii) To fill up any vacancy for any post either in the High Court or

in courts subordinate to the High Court, in strict compliance of

the statutory rules so made.  In case any appointment is made in

contravention of the statutory rules, the appointment would be

void ab-initio irrespective of any class of the post or the person

occupying it.

iii) The post  shall  be filled up by issuing the advertisement in at

least two newspapers and one of which must be in vernacular

language having wide circulation in the respective State.   In

addition thereto, the names may be requisitioned from the local

employment exchange and the vacancies may be advertised by

other modes also e.g.  Employment News,  etc.   Any vacancy

filled up without advertising as prescribed hereinabove, shall be

void  ab-initio and  would  remain  unenforceable  and

inexecutable except such appointments which are permissible to

be  filled  up  without  advertisement,  e.g.,  appointment  on

compassionate grounds as per the rules applicable.  Before any

appointment is made, the eligibility as well as suitability of all


Page 27

candidates  should  be  screened/tested  while  adhering  to  the

reservation policy adopted by the State, etc., if any.

iv) Each High Court  may examine and decide within six months

from today as  to whether  it  is  desirable  to have centralised

selection  of  candidates  for  the  courts  subordinate  to  the

respective High Court and if it finds it desirable, may formulate

the rules to carry out that purpose either  for the State or  on

Zonal or Divisional basis.   

v) The High Court concerned or the subordinate court as the case

may be, shall undertake the exercise of recruitment on a regular

basis at least  once a year for existing vacancies or vacancies

that  are  likely  to  occur  within  the  said  period,  so  that  the

vacancies  are  filled  up  timely,  and  thereby  avoiding  any

inconvenience or shortage of  staff  as it  will  also control  the

menace of ad-hocism. 

36. Before parting with the case, we record our deep appreciation to

Shri P.S. Narasimha, learned senior counsel for rendering invaluable

assistance to the court as Amicus Curiae. 


Page 28

 Copy of the judgment be sent to the Registrar General/Registrar

(Administration) of all the High Courts by this Registry directly and

the said officer  is  requested to place the same before the Hon’ble

Chief Justice for information and appropriate action.



                                    (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)


                              (J. CHELAMESWAR)


                           (M.Y. EQBAL)

New Delhi;

February 12, 2014.  


Page 29


Vineet Kumar
on 18 February 2014
Published in Constitutional Law
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