Six months after services of two Additional District Judges (trainees) were terminated for violating the two-child norm, Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed that they be reinstated and granted all consequential benefits, except salary from the date of termination till the date of reinstatement.
Practising advocates Ashraf Ali and Manoj Kumar had appeared in the direct recruitment examination and were appointed as ADJs at Jabalpur and Gwalior, respectively.
After they joined work in April 2017, the two judges were asked details about their children for their service book. ADJ Kumar said he had five children, while Ali informed he had three. A written explanation was sought from them and their services were terminated on September 7.
They were terminated for violating Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Service (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 1994, for having more than two children, one of whom was born after January 26, 2001. The two ADJs moved the High Court but their petitions were clubbed. They argued that the termination orders had been passed by the Madhya Pradesh Department of Law and Legislative Affairs without hearing them.
The petitioners argued that the application form did not ask information about their children. The High Court argued that the advertisement dated November 23, 2015, specifically mentioned in clause 3 (a) that a candidate who does not fulfill provisions of MP Civil Services (General Conditions of Service) Rules, 1961, was not qualified for the post.
A counsel for the High Court submitted the recruiting authority was always entitled to specify provisions of eligibility at the time of recruitment and that the persons who participate in the process without fulfilling such eligibility criteria are not entitled to challenge the eligibility at a subsequent stage.
A division bench of Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice H P Singh held that it was mandatory for the High Court to seek information about the number of children in the application form itself. The eligibility of the candidate has to be checked before a candidate is permitted to appear in the examination and take part in the selection process. “Once the petitioners have been subjected to selection and subsequent appointment then to cancel the candidature is unreasonable action on part of the high court,’’ the bench held.
The court rejected the argument that the government decision to adopt the rules was contrary to the Constitutional scheme to ensure independence of the judiciary.
The bench has given the state government a month to comply with the order. Besides the two-child norm, the rules also disqualify persons having more than one living spouse for appointment by direct recruitment.