The top court on Friday stayed the promotion of 68 judicial officers in Gujarat, including that of Surat Chief Judicial Magistrate Harish Hasmukh Varma, who had convicted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case and sentenced him to two years imprisonment.
The promotions have been stayed due to the violation of the “merit-cum-seniority principle”. Two senior civil judge cadre officers, Ravikumar Maheta and Sachin Prataprai Mehta, had approached the Supreme Court against the selection of the 68 judicial officers to the higher cadre of district judges.
The petitioners challenged the recommendations made by the Gujarat government for the promotion of district judges in the state. The appointments were allegedly made in contravention of the recruitment rules, which required that district judge posts would be filled up by reserving 65 per cent of seats on merit-cum-seniority basis and on the candidates passing a suitability test.
The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Gujarat High Court and the state government last month, following the contentions raised by the petitioners. However, the state government went ahead with the promotions of the judges recommended by the high court, which the Supreme Court viewed as an “overreach” and “nothing but overreaching the court’s process and the present proceedings”.
The division bench summoned the state secretary to court on the next date of hearing to explain the government’s actions. The government’s notification would be suspended if the court is not satisfied with the explanation offered by the state secretary.
Earlier this month, Justice Shah questioned the counsel for the state of Gujarat, demanding an explanation for its decision to notify the promotions while the Supreme Court was handling the matter.
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