District Judges - Mind-boggling Selection Process

On the 11th, 12th and 13th of November, 2010, the Madras High Court interviewed 103 probable candidates for appointment to the Tamil Nadu Judiciary as District Judges. Of these, 17 would be finally approved by a panel comprising five sitting judges including the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

The five judges were Chief Justice M Yusuf Eqbal, Justice Ibrahim Khalifullah, Justice Elipe Dharma Rao, Justice Bhanumathy and Justice Nagappan; more on each one of them later.

The 103 candidates who took the viva voce were short-listed from a total of 2047 lawyers who during the first stage of the selection process, sat for written examinations comprising three papers. The news report presented below indicates possible nepotism in the selection process which short-listed 103 aspirants for 17 posts.

The writer has it on excellent authority that on the first day, a total of 25 candidates were interviewed. The process lasted the whole day where the panel interviewed each candidate for at least 30 minutes.

On the second day more candidates than the first day were interviewed but on the third and concluding day, 36 candidates were interviewed in exactly two and a half hours. This means each interview lasted barely three minutes thus reducing the proceedings of the third day to scandalous farce.

We cannot be faulted for thinking that the panel had probably already made up its mind on the first day and therefore simply went through the motions of due process on the second and third days.

On the third day, one of the candidates appearing before the panel of judges for his viva voce was a Muslim lawyer. The writer’s friend, a lawyer in the Madras High Court was beside himself with anger as he described what lay in store for the Muslim Lawyer when he entered the room.

Justice Ibrahim Khalifullah asked the candidate something from the Koran which the Muslim lawyer could not answer to Khalifullah’s satisfaction. Justice Khalifullah reprimanded the candidate for his ignorance of the Koran and dismissed him abruptly.

Not surprisingly the outraged Muslim lawyer shouted how in ....did it matter that he was not well versed with the Koran for an interview which would determine if he was fit to be appointed District Judge.

Enraged by the mockery that the panel of judges had made of the solemn process of viva voce the angry lawyer told a stunned audience outside that not a single judge sitting on the panel had a pen with him to make notes or remarks and that the Chief Justice was holding only a pencil in his hand!!

Once again we cannot be faulted for concluding that either the judges had already short-listed the final aspirants and therefore decided not even to pretend to be taking these interviews seriously or worse, the pencil was an indication The better to erase, rewrite or compose afresh details of the interview my dear.

The writer’s friend remarked scathingly that probably stung by the satirical news report in The Hindu implying nepotism, the panel swung to the other extreme and the choice of 17 names from among the 103 who attended the viva voce for appointment as District Judges, left much to be desired.

A case has been filed in the Madras High Court challenging the process and the final selection.

A quick look at the judges on the panel -

Chief Justice M Yusuf Eqbal - presided over the First Bench when the writer challenged the Chennai Corporation’s drive to demolish only Hindu street temples, Justice Eqbal’s gems of wisdom include-

  • First they will build a small room and call it temple. Then they will build a bedroom and live there.

  • How can the Corporation serve notices prior to demolition? Nobody is there to receive the notices and we never know who owns these temples

  • The Corporation has other things also to do besides attending to these complaints

  • To a question from the writer about what can those hundreds of temples do which have been demolished without notice, Justice marked sarcastically, "Let them all file a petition in this court".

Justice Elipe Dharma Rao is in the habit of sniggering at his own rude remarks which he routinely directs at lawyers and litigants. The writer shudders to think of what this legal luminary must have done to the 103 hopefuls who were interviewed by him. Justice Elipe’s gems of wisdom in the second court where the writer’s case for street temples first came up before being transferred to the First Court -

Milord...(The writer tried to say something)

"Tomorrow", His Royal Highness snapped without allowing the writer to even proceed to the second word.

"Milord please..." (The writer again)

Milord did not even condescend to look at the writer and tossed, actually threw my case file aside. Finally when the case did come up for hearing -

It is easier to remove fish stalls but not temples. (Snigger, snigger) The Corporation’s standing counsel laughed admiringly at Milord’s wit and sense of humor. The writer had to clench her teeth to bite back the words at the tip of her tongue.

When the writer drew the attention of Justice Elipe Dharma Rao to the fact that for three consecutive days the Standing Counsel had failed to turn up in court, the witty judge remarked, "Counsel has 100 things to do".

Justice Ibrahim Khalifullah Chief Justice of J&K designate - in the course of hearing a PIL in the Madras High Court Justice Khalifullah is alleged to have remarked that government buildings and offices should ideally not display religious structures and symbols. The good judge was of course referring only to Hindu temples in most government campuses and the pictures of our Devis and Devtas which adorn the rooms of every Hindu government employee.

But Justice Khalifullah and every Muslim judge in Tamil Nadu’s courts rise promptly at 12.30 PM every Friday, one hour before the courts adjourn for lunch at 1.30 PM, only to offer Friday namaaz. Not that alone, Justice Khlaifullah had asked for the room in the High Court campus where the Muslim judges congregate for namaaz to be air-conditioned! Now that is secularism as defined by India’s well-organized Abrahamic minorities.

Justice Khalifullah, singing in tune with former CJI KG Balakrishnan, punished only the TN police for the police-lawyer clashes on February 19, 2009. Justice Khlaifullh held five of TN seniormost police officers guilty of contempt of court. Like "abuse of human rights" which covers everything from abuse of state power to pick-pocketing, contempt of court is what our wise judges define it to be.

In this case, the police according to Jusice Ibrahim Khalifullah was guilty of contempt of court because His Royal Highness decreed, police action against the lawyers led to loss of work hours in the Madras High Court!!

Readers are informed that the goonda lawyers of the madras High Court had been striking work as a matter of routine work culture and at that time was in fact striking work in support of the LTTE.

To know just how many work hours have been lost by lawyer goondaism Vigilonline carries district-wise data for work hours lost just between 2006 and 2009.

http://www.vigilonline.com

Surely Justice Khalifullah as one of the senior-most judges in the Madras High Court ought to have known this. And yet, he practiced his own variant of nepotism when he let off members of his own species, the goonda lawyers for a more heinous crime and yet chose to punish the police.

Justice Bhanumathy - Christian judge who ordered the hoary Chidambaram Temple to be taken over by the predatory TN government HR&CE.

Justice Nagappan - nothing yet.

The process has attracted the attention even of other judges in the Madras High Court. According to the writer’s friend, Justice Chandru was hearing a case last week by a petitioner challenging the selection process in his college for the post of Lecturer. The advocate appearing for the aggrieved person made the following point as a point of contention -

The panel interviewing candidates for the post of Lecturer did not deem fit to record their views in ink but were instead holding pencils which could be interpreted, said the lawyer, as allowing for remarks to be made in ink later, as the panel chose.

To this Justice Chnadru is reported to have remarked bitingly in open court, "If you are aggrieved over this, then consider yourself to be more fortunate than being interviewed by a panel where only one member is holding a pencil!!

In conclusion, three points have been raised by those who are determined to challenge the final list. Fearing allegations of nepotism, the panel of judges has opted to be guilty of other charges -

  • Older candidates aged forty and above have been selected, simply because of their age

  • At least two of the 17 have FIRs registered against them

  • Three of those selected were not selected for the District Munsif posts (the lowest post in the judiciary) at the time of the selection process held very recently but have been found to be eligible to be selected as District Judges!

I rest my case. The Judiciary and Judges need to be watched closely in any democracy and Vigilonline will continue to watch them.

Radha Rajan, 10-02-2011

Also read -

Sons, relatives of serving, retired judges excel in exam

Mohamed Imranullah S.
Saturday, Oct 30, 2010
Source: http://www.hindu.com

MADURAI: Sons, relatives and juniors of serving as well as former judges of the Madras High Court have come out with flying colours in written examination held on October 3 for 17 vacancies of District Judge (entry level) across the State.

VR. Shanmuganathan, nephew of High Court judge M. Chockalingam, and A. Edwin Prabhakar, son of former judge S. Ashok Kumar (since dead), have secured ninth and tenth place among the 103 candidates shortlisted by the High Court for viva-voce from among 2,047 lawyers who took the examinations.

The two lawyers scored 54 and 53 marks out of the maximum of 75 marks in the written examination.

They were among the elite list of 13 lawyers who scored between 50.001 and 60 marks. The first and second place holders R. Sakthivel and T.S. Nandakumar scored 61 and 60.5 marks. R. Karl Marx and K. Rajasekar, juniors of two other serving judges of the Madras High Court during their stint as lawyers, secured 41st and 55th place in the list of candidates selected for viva-voce (which carries 25 marks) with 45 and 42.3 marks in the written examination.

Early this year, the State government called for applications from lawyers and pleaders with not less than seven years of practice in the Bar for appointment as District Judge through direct recruitment under Tamil Nadu State Judicial Service (Cadre and Recruitment) Rules, 2007.

The selection process was left to the High Court, which constituted a committee of judges to conduct the examinations and evaluate the answer scripts.

The question paper contained three parts, one pertaining to civil law, another relating to criminal law and the third on general knowledge