The Kerala High Court ruled that it would not be a barrier to a person's appointment to the position of District Judge if they had merely been a Munsiff-Magistrate trainee on the date their application for appointment as such was submitted or on the date they were appointed as such.
In a petition contesting the appointment of A.V. Telles, the third respondent, because he had been enrolled in the Kerala Judicial Academy's Munsiff-Magistrate training program, Justice Anu Sivaraman made the aforementioned ruling and noted,
"Reading the terms of the Kerala Judicial Service Rules would make it evident that Ext.P6 is an order deputing the incumbents whose names are on the Ext.P5 list for the pre-induction training. The initial induction in the post of Munsiff-Magistrate is as pre-induction trainees. The petitioner's argument that the third respondent was appointed as a Munsiff-Magistrate and was therefore a judicial officer cannot be accepted because the Special Rules specifically call for pre-induction training and a later appointment as Munsiff-Magistrate after the period of training is complete ".
The Court also noted in this instance that the,
"The third respondent had asked the High Court for permission to be excused from the training; the High Court approved this request and informed the Government. The government had already appointed the third respondent with a lien to the position of Assistant Public Prosecutor Grade I by passing Ext.P7 order ".
Facts of the case
The case's facts show that Unnikrishnan V.V., the petitioner, and A.V. Telles, the third respondent, who were both Additional Public Prosecutors at the time, applied for the position of District and Sessions Judge. The third respondent only applied for the category no. 4 vacancy, but the petitioner applied for both category No. 6 (regular vacancies) and No. 4 (NCA vacancy of Scheduled Tribe).
The Munsiff-Magistrate was subsequently appointed as a result of a request made by the third respondent, Telles. With effect from April 4, 2022, he would be receiving training for the position at the Kerala Judicial Academy. In the interim, he had also taken the preliminary and main exams, as well as the interview for the position of District and Sessions Judge. Following the completion of these steps, a selection list was published, with his name appearing as serial number 1 in category 4, while the petitioner was serial number 2.
The petitioner argues that the third respondent, who had stopped practicing law at the time of his appointment as Munsiff-Magistrate, is not entitled to such an appointment and that the petitioner was therefore eligible to be appointed in his place. In this case, he cited the ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Dheeraj Mor v. High Court of Delhi (2020).
However, the petitioner and the third respondent were both Assistant Public Prosecutors when they applied for the position of District and Sessions Judge, and they were both listed on the select list for appointment to the same under the recruitment No. 4/21, according to the 2nd respondent, High Court of Kerala (NCA vacancy - ST). As the appointment was made by transfer, it was argued that the applicant retains a lien over the position in the parent cadre under Rule 8 of Part II KS & SSR.
The counsels further claimed that the third respondent was only ever appointed as a Munsiff-Magistrate Trainee for the pre-induction training required by the Kerala Judicial Service Rules and that he was never appointed as a Munsiff-Magistrate. This was followed by the statement, "...The rules of the Kerala Judicial Service Rules are absolutely clear that the training imparted is pre-induction training and that only on successful completion of training may a person be appointed as a Judicial Magistrate in the Kerala Judicial Service."
It was further contended that the third respondent had asked the High Court for permission to be released from the training for Munsiff-Magistrate and to enable him to reapply for the position of Assistant Public Prosecutor Grade I, and that request had been granted by the administrative committee.
The counsel for the respondents drew attention to the fact that the Government had also afterward made an order allowing the third respondent to resume his duties as Assistant Public Prosecutor, and that it was during this period that he had been appointed as the District and Sessions Judge. It was argued that there was no irregularity in the third respondent's appointment because he had also been a licensed attorney at the time that his application was submitted.
In this case, the Court understood that the issue at hand concerned whether the third respondent was ineligible for an appointment. The Court in this instance read the Kerala Judicial Service Rules and determined, in particular, Rules 5, 6, 7, and 8, that direct recruitment and transfer are the methods employed to appoint Munsiff-Magistrates.
"Therefore, it is evident from a reading of the requirements that the High Court's list created in line with Rule 7 must also be used to make appointments through transfer to the position of Munsiff-Magistrates. After that, Rule 8 requires training. The Rules' provisions make it clear that pre-induction training is what is intended. The Rules further said that the list created by Rule 7 must be used for all initial appointments made through direct recruiting or transfers "It clarified.
The Court determined that the third respondent in this matter had been deputed for training after being chosen for appointment as Munsiff-Magistrate by transfer. It was specifically noted that the third respondent, after obtaining the High Court's previous approval, took part in the selection process for the position of District Judge. The High Court and the Government both accepted the resignation he subsequently gave, and it was only then that he was named a District Judge.
The Court pointed out that the restriction in the Dheeraj Mor case primarily related to the selection of individuals who had been appointed as Judicial Officers as District and Sessions Judges under the quota set out for direct appointment from the Bar.
The Court determined that by distinguishing this from the circumstances of the current case
"that the third respondent was not a judge on the day he submitted his application to become a district judge or the day he was appointed in that capacity. Additionally, as of 4.4.2022, he was simply a Munsiff-Magistrate trainee. In the aforementioned factual scenario, in my opinion, the prayed-for blessings are not likely to be granted ".As a result, the writ petition