The Gujarat High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre on a petition, challenging the appointment of notaries who were allegedly selected because of their political affiliations. The petitioners, most of whom are Muslims, had applied for the position of notaries but were not selected.
The appointment list of notaries was published on March 1.
According to the petition, Gujarat has a quota of 3,000 notaries, and as per the provisions of Notaries Act, 1952, as many as 1,896 advocates were appointed whereas there was a vacancy for only 1,240 positions. Already, 1,760 notaries are on the roll.
Thirty-six candidates, who are the petitioners and had submitted their applications along with requisite documents, were called for the interview by the Centre between October 8 and November 5. However, as the petition alleged, despite fulfilling the eligibility criteria, the candidates were neither appointed nor were they given any reason for their rejection, as stipulated by Notaries Rule,1956. The petition said, “It is further submitted that from the whole of Ahmedabad City and Ahmedabad District, not even a single Muslim candidate is selected as notary.”
Pooja Ashar, associate advocate at Ansari Solicitor Firm, which is representing the petitioners, said, “Documents include enrollment certificate which proves years of practice, proof of practising under a member of concerned bar, etc are to be submitted to the government. Once all requisite documents are proven to be authentic by a committee, they are then called for an interview. The interview tests the candidate’s knowledge of commercial and contract law.”
Javedakhtar Abdurraham Sheikh (42), one of the petitioners and a resident of Ahmedabad, said: “I had an eye accident in 2012, whereafter I couldn’t practise as I was told by the doctor that I can’t have long exposure to sunlight. Thereafter, I realised that I can apply for a notary licence so as to run my household. I applied for the first time in 2014, but since I did not submit a document in a particular format, I wasn’t called for an interview, which is fair. The notary selection is done once in four years so I attempted in 2018.This time, I was called for an interview. During the interview, I was asked why do I want to be a notary? I honestly explained my eye problem to the interviewers. They then asked me what do I practise, to which I replied that I deal with criminal cases. Following this, they asked me, how many cases I have as of the day of interview. I told them that 20-25 cases, to which they asked that in 16 years of practice why do I have only 20-25 cases. I further explained that due to my medical condition I can’t strain my eye, which is why I often end up not taking cases. Although I clarified, that I’m well-versed on the legal aspects necessary to be a notary licence holder and they may ask me anything pertaining to the same, they never did.”
The petition alleged, “The candidates are mostly selected because of their political affiliations or other influences.”
Ashar said “Recommendation letters for a candidate can only be provided by the district court where the candidate practises and that too by a person not below the cadre of secretary or registrar. However, many of the selected candidates have had political parties endorsing them, with letters of recommendation in the said political party’s letterhead. A lot of the selected candidates have also publicly professed their close relationships with party members,” Ashar alleged.
The petition alleged such selections as “illegal, arbitrary and contrary to the law,” and that among the authorised notaries, “there are several selected candidates who have not completed prescribed years of practice on date of application.” Ashar said, “A general category male must be a practising advocate for ten years and SC, ST, OBC and females of all categories must be practising for seven years. This is not the case for a number of notary authorities who have been selected.”
“Moreover, appointments also take care of the area in terms of population that shall be served by a particular notary. There has to be a public disclosure by the government of the area being served by any and every notary authority, which has not been done. Furthermore, there are several relatives of one family or firm appointed as notary. If such is the case, the government must mention the reason for it, as per the rules, especially since it implies that double the number of notary authority is serving one specific area. No such clarification or disclosure has thus been provided.”
The matter will be further heard by Justice AY Kogje on March 20.