High Court Upholds Decision on Minimum Eligibility Cut-Off in Judicial Promotions Case

In a recent legal battle concerning judicial promotions, the High Court has affirmed its decision on the imposition of a minimum eligibility cut-off. The case involved various senior counsels and unsuccessful officers challenging the requirement of obtaining 50% marks individually in the written test. Stay tuned to learn more about this significant judgment!


  • The High Court of Punjab and Haryana responded to the communication of the State Government on 22 March 2023 regarding the appointment of Additional District and Sessions Judges.
  • A writ petition was filed by candidates working as Civil Judges and Chief Judicial Magistrates in Haryana seeking a mandamus for the State Government to conclude the selection process and notify the appointments of Additional District and Sessions Judges by promotion.
  • The State Government sought the opinion of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice after receiving a representation challenging the High Court’s recommendations.
  • The Union Ministry opined that the High Court’s modification of the suitability criteria lacked consultation with the State Government and thus was not binding.
  • The High Court conducted a written test for promotion followed by a viva voce as part of the process.
  • The Rules came into force on 10 January 2007 and regulate recruitment and service conditions of persons for appointment to the Haryana Superior Judicial Service.
  • A communication was addressed by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Haryana to the Registrar (Judicial) seeking justification/clarification regarding certain judicial officers of the 2007, 2009, and 2010 batches who appeared senior but were not recommended for promotions.
  • The Full Court Resolution of 29 January 2013 required candidates to obtain at least 50% marks in the written test and viva voce combined, while the proposal of the Recruitment and Promotion Committee of 11 November 2021 stipulated a 50% mark requirement for each separately.
  • Definitions of ‘promoted officer’ and ‘direct recruit’ were provided under Rule 2 of the Haryana Superior Judicial Service Rules 2007.
  • Candidates were seeking recruitment through promotions from the post of Senior Civil Judges against the 65% promotional quota.
  • The High Court considered the Annual Confidential Reports of the preceding five years for each officer under consideration.
  • The recommendation dispute arose from the administrative side of the High Court for the appointment of thirteen in-service candidates as Additional District and Sessions Judges.
  • A resolution required a written objective test and a viva voce to assess the legal knowledge and efficiency of the candidates, which was approved by the Full Court on 30 November 2021.
  • Recruitment to the Service was to be made by the Governor through promotion and direct recruitment as per Rules 5 and 6.
  • Uniformity in promotions to the Superior Judicial Service was enforced through amendments by the States of Haryana and Punjab.
  • Various rules including limited competitive examinations for promotion and procedures for promotions were outlined in Rules 7, 8, and 9.
  • Modifications in the benchmark for assessing the ACRs of candidates under Rule 8 were proposed by the Committee.

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  • The unsuccessful officers argued that there is no legal basis for imposing a minimum eligibility cut-off of obtaining 50% marks individually in the written test.
  • Recruitment by promotion under Rule 6(1)(a) is based on merit-cum-seniority and passing a suitability test, while under Rule 6(1)(b) it is based on merit through a limited competitive examination with 5 years of qualifying service as Civil Judges.
  • Various senior counsels supported or opposed the imposition of minimum marks for interviews and argued about the discriminatory nature of the imposed criteria.
  • There were arguments about the administrative power of the High Court in the appointment of District Judges and the necessity of consultation with the State Government.
  • The Resolution of the Full Court dated 30 November 2021 imposing a 50% eligibility requirement was contested as discriminatory and lacking consultation.
  • Discrepancies were highlighted in the requirements for different modes of recruitment to the Higher Judicial Service.

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  • Rule 9 provides a detailed procedure for a limited competitive examination while implementing Rule 6(1)(b) in a mandatory sense.
  • In K H Siraj v. High Court of Kerala, the issue of minimum marks for the oral examination as eligibility for selection as Munsif Magistrate was challenged.
  • The constitutional importance of the independence of the Judiciary and separation of powers was emphasized in State of Bihar v. Bal Mukund Sah.
  • The Kerala State Higher Judicial Services Rules 1961 specify the criteria for direct recruitment from the Bar.
  • The interview for officers in this class assesses their ability for the role of Additional District and Sessions Judge, emphasizing merit over seniority.
  • The discretion of the High Court in conducting written tests and viva voce for promotions is indicated in Rule 8 through the use of ‘may’.
  • The Rules do not specify a minimum eligibility criteria for competitive tests or viva voce, allowing the High Court to decide based on aggregate marks.
  • The consultation process with the High Court is essential for the appointment of District Judges under Article 233.
  • Different avenues for in-service officers to enter the Superior Judicial Service are outlined, including limited competitive exams and promotion based on merit or merit-cum-seniority.
  • The examination and appointment process of judicial officers, particularly for District Judiciary, is discussed in detail with a focus on maintaining quality and merit-based promotions.
  • The importance of consultation with the High Court for judicial appointments is highlighted in various judgments.
  • Different sources of recruitment to the Higher Judicial Service are specified along with the quota percentages and criteria.
  • The significance of merit and seniority in the promotion process is emphasized to ensure the selection of competent judicial officers.
  • The High Court’s decision to set a minimum cut-off for viva voce was legally sound and aligned with the merit-based recruitment process.
  • Articles 233, 234, and 235 of the Constitution play a crucial role in appointing District Judges and ensuring consultation with the High Court.
  • The objective of promoting in-service officers through competitive examinations is to enhance the caliber of individuals recruited into the Higher Judicial Service.
  • The need for a balance between written tests, viva voce, and assessment of legal knowledge and communication skills is stressed for the selection of capable judicial officers.
  • The importance of interviews and setting minimum passing marks for selection to maintain judiciary standards was underscored in various cases.
  • Recruitment through regular promotion is distinct from promotion based on limited competitive examination.
  • The Shetty Commission recommended imposing a cut-off to avoid subjectivity.
  • High Courts can issue administrative directions consistent with Rules when silent.
  • Silence in Rules allows High Courts to issue Full Court Resolutions for guidance.
  • In-service judicial officers need to demonstrate practical knowledge and law application in interviews.
  • Different routes of recruitment for the same post have different testing requirements.
  • High Courts have administrative authority to determine merit and suitability where Rules are silent.
  • Merit-cum-seniority principle applies to 65% of posts in Higher Judicial Service under Rule 6(1)(a).
  • Administrative instructions can supplement Rules for determining merit in Rule 6(1)(a) and Rule 8.
  • High Courts can impose a minimum cut-off for eligibility in written and viva voce tests.
  • The reservation for SC/ST candidates was specified for qualifying marks.
  • Gaps in Rules can be filled by administrative instructions as long as they do not contradict statutory provisions.
  • Rules differentiate between competitive exams under Rule 6(1)(b) and direct recruitment exams.
  • The consultation for judicial appointments must involve the High Court and the State Government.
  • High Courts have control over Subordinate Courts as per Article 235 of the Constitution.
  • Emphasis on merit over seniority cautioned for promotion of judicial officers.
  • High Courts have the discretion to conduct examinations under the Rules.
  • Consultation with the High Court is essential for rules under Articles 234, 235, and 309.
  • Examinations under Rules serve to assess legal knowledge and efficiency.
  • In-service candidates are evaluated based on tests and service records for promotion.
  • Limited competitive exams for promotions based strictly on merit and qualifying service.
  • High Courts’ resolutions modifying earlier terms are binding when aligned with Rules.
  • State Government found fault with the process followed by the High Court
  • State Government’s conclusion of the High Court’s decision being arbitrary was deemed incorrect
  • The expressions ‘arbitrary’ and ‘betrayal of trust’ used by the State Government were noted but not further addressed
  • The High Court’s decision was affirmed as valid

Also Read: Legal Analysis on Arbitration Petition Limitation Period


  • The judgment and order of the High Court dated 20 December 2023 are deemed legally sound.
  • The appeals have been dismissed on the grounds of no legal or other infirmity in the High Court’s decision.


Case Number: C.A. No.-002179-002180 / 2024

Click here to read/download original judgement

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