The Supreme Court ordered a stay on the promotion of 68 judicial officers as district judges in Gujarat and came down hard on the state government for notifying the promotions even as the legality of the promotions was sub-judice.
A division bench of Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar in an interim order stayed the Gujarat High Court recommendation to promote them and the state notification in pursuance of this. The bench noted that the state had issued the notification after it issued notice on the plea challenging the high court recommendation.
Among the 68 is Harish Hasmukh Bhai Varma who, as a Surat magistrate, had convicted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case in March this year. Varma, was promoted to the district judge cadre and his posting was notified for Rajkot.
The petitioners had contended that while according to the recruitment rules, posts of district judges had to be filled by reserving 65 per cent of the seats on merit-cum-seniority basis and the candidates clearing a suitability test, the merit-cum-seniority principle was given a go-by and the appointments are made on the basis of the seniority-cum-merit.
Earlier, the court issued a notice in the matter on April 13, 2023, and made it returnable on April 28. On the next date of hearing on April 28, a bench of Justices Shah and J B Pardiwala took exception to the state issuing the promotion order on April 18 despite the fact that it had already issued the notice. Supreme Court termed this as the state “overreaching” its orders.
The case will now be heard by a new bench assigned by the Chief Justice of India since Justice M R Shah retires on May 15.