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SC's NLU-preference in judicial clerks challenged; Delhi HC heeds

Writing on the wall
Writing on the wall
Exclusive: The High Court of Delhi today asked the Supreme Court to explain why it has only allowed national law university graduates and graduates from universities “approved” by the Supreme Court to apply for the annual law-clerk openings in the court.

AIL Mohali final year student Phalguni Nilesh Lal had filed a writ petition in the Delhi high court (HC) on Wednesday, challenging the validity of the Supreme Court’s process of selecting judicial clerks. Under the current process she was ineligible to apply because her law school was not invited to submit applications for the post.

On 3 December 2012, the Supreme Court’s registrar had written to select law schools stating: “You are aware that Final year/semester/trimester LLB/LLM students from National Law Schools/Universities on the approved panel and in the stand-by category in the country are considered for short-term assignment as Law-Clerk-cum-Research-Assistant in the registry of the Supreme Court of India.”

AIL Mohali was not among the colleges that received the registrar’s letter, leading Lal to attempt applying independently. The registrar declined Lal’s request for an application form, stating that AIL Mohali – a Bar Council of India (BCI) recognised Indian law school – was not on the SC’s “approved panel” for judicial clerkships, according to the case.

The notification inviting applications due on 31 January 2013 was not available in the public domain. The registry also declined Lal’s request to view a copy of the notification, she has claimed. No response was elicited by Lal’s 11 January letter to the chief justice of India, and 14 January right to information query to the registry seeking a list of the empanelled and “stand-by category” law colleges and the criteria adopted for empanelment.

She therefore challenged the SC’s institutional preference in the selection of its judicial clerks as violating the constitutional right to equality under Article 14. Advocates Rajeev Sharma, Uddyam Mukherjee and Sahil Bhalaik today appeared for Lal before justice Rajiv Shakdher.

Additional solicitor general AS Chandhiok argued on behalf of the Supreme Court that the selection process was fair because the option to apply for empanelment was available with all BCI recognised law schools.

Justice Shakdher has asked the Supreme Court registrar to file his reply by 19 March.

Read the full letter inviting applications until 31 January 2013 for Supreme Court law researcher posts for 2013-2014.

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