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NLU D Prof Mrinal Satish’s Judicial Academy chairmanship writted: Not enough experience since 2001 NLS degree (unless Chief waives it)

The DJA rules are quite specific (and CJ-centric) so case unlikely to set any judicial precedent for the appointments of young professors to academic top posts.
Prima facie, the DJA rules were relaxed to appoint Mrinal Satish as chairman
Prima facie, the DJA rules were relaxed to appoint Mrinal Satish as chairman

The 20 December 2018 appointment of NLU Delhi Prof Mrinal Satish as chairperson of the Delhi Judicial Academy (DJA) has been challenged in the Delhi high court on around two weeks ago, by the NGO Agam An Initiative for Good Governance, claiming that he did not fulfil the minimum experience requirements of the role, according to The Hindu and Bar & Bench.

That may indeed be true, according to the DJA’s rules, which limits the post of chairpersons to either former judges below 70, or “distinguished academician[s]” with a minimum of 30 years teaching experience and at least 10 years as a professor of law.

Satish is a 2001 NLSIU Bangalore graduate (decorated with the Madhu Bhasin Noble Student Award for excellence in academics), with LLM and doctoral degrees from Yale Law School (the former under an Inlaks scholarship), who has taken the two year term appointment to head the DJA on full-time deputation from NLU Delhi, where he was professor of law. Between 2007 and 2009, he had joined the National Judicial Academy (NJA) Bhopal as an assistant professor, under then-chairperson Prof Mohan Gopal, and had previously also taught at NLSIU, under a Mahtma Gandhi National Law Teaching Fellowship.

Notwithstanding his academic achievements, his biography and undergraduate graduation in 2001 does probably make it physically impossible, as the petition suggests, for him to have had more than 30 years of teaching experience in the last 18 years (we were not able to confirm exactly how many years he has been a professor, though that is likely to also fall short of the required 10 years).

However, the crux of the matter will be whether the patron-in-chief of the DJA - in this case the Delhi high court’s chief justice - exercised his wide powers under its internal rules.

Notably, in respect of nearly all functions of the DJA, the chief justice enjoys nearly unfettered powers to relax the qualification requirements or other rules (screenshot below).

The matter came up before the Delhi high court chief justice Rajendra Menon on 12 April. Menon sensibly recused himself, since he can hardly rule on and give evidence of whether or not he had sanctioned Satish’s appointment, and fixed the matter for hearing today before Justice Ravindra Bhat.

Bhat issued notice, with the next hearing scheduled for August.

Ultimately, it does seem as though it’ll be a pretty straightforward case: either the chief is happy with Satish’s appointment, or not.

If it is the former, then even if the appointment wasn’t formally sanctioned by Menon (as he may or may not testify in an affidavit or witness statement before the court), the powers the CJ enjoys under the DJA rules might just mean he could wave a magic wand and cure the defect (perhaps even retrospectively), if no other impropriety is unearthed.

However, considering this also concerns the judiciary, that process could take longer than one might expect.

The DJA is a state judicial academy that was created to train mostly Delhi-based judges (though it is understood to sometimes also conduct training sessions for judges from other states). This is in contrast to the NJA in Bhopal, which exists to provide continuing legal and professional education to all judges in India.

Predecessors of Satish in the role are professors Ved Kumari, MP Singh and Bhushan Tilak Kaul.

Satish declined to comment when contacted.

It all boils down to: Did the Chief relax the requirements or not?
It all boils down to: Did the Chief relax the requirements or not?

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