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SC claims discretion in NLU judicial clerkship preference, appeals Delhi HC strikedown

SC clerkships: Egalitarian?
SC clerkships: Egalitarian?

The Delhi high court today issued notice in the Supreme Court’s letters patent appeal against the 16 December decision by a single Delhi high court judge that the apex court’s method of selecting judicial clerks was unconstitutional, a lawyer close to the case told Legally India.

AIL Mohali graduate Phalguni Nilesh Lal had last year petitioned the Delhi HC, while she was a final year student, challenging the validity of the Supreme Court’s (SC) selection procedure, which only allows applications from a small group of law schools.

In the letters patent appeal the SC’s secretary general has challenged Lal’s right to seek remedy under the HC’s writ jurisdiction, as the SC’s clerkship selection policy affects institutes and not individuals and, if anything, it should have been AIL Mohali that was the aggrieved party in the writ.

The SC also argued that the committee formed by it for selection of judicial clerks enjoys administrative discretion which is not open to judicial scrutiny, and that the selection policy is a long standing practice of the SC, which should not be scrutinised on the touchstone of the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.

AIL Mohali was made respondent number two in the appeal, while Lal was the first respondent to the appeal after her counsel - advocates Rajeev Sharma, Uddyam Mukherjee and Sahil Bhalaik – had requested to remain on caveat in any future appeals in the case. Senior advocate AS Chandhiok appeared for the Supreme Court.

Delhi HC chief justice NV Ramana and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw today directed the Army Institute of Law Mohali to file its reply to the appeal by 10 February.

In his 16 December order, Delhi HC Justice Rajiv Shakdher had directed the SC’s registrar to consider Lal’s application for the SC’s clerkship and allow her to clerk, if she was eligible under the criteria, for the remaining tenure this year ending in June 2014. The SC’s secretary general requested an expeditious hearing in the matter.

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