Lawyer challenges minimum age criterion for district judge post

A 34-year-old lawyer has approached the Madras High Court challenging fixation of 35 years as the minimum age required for lawyers to participate in the process for direct recruitment of district judges in the State. The petitioner claimed such fixation was unconstitutional and detrimental to interests of lawyers practising since young age.

The case filed by S. Nandhivarman, who claimed to have passed out of National School of Law University in Bangalore and had been in active practice since 2010, is expected to be listed before a special Division Bench of Justices V. Bharathidasan and V. Parthiban constituted for hearing all cases filed against recruitment of judicial officers.

The petitioner had challenged a recent amendment made to the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Service (Cadre and Recruitment) Rules of 2007 for fixing the minimum age criteria. He claimed that it was against Article 233(2) of the Constitution which states that any lawyer with seven years of experience would be eligible for appointment as a district judge.

Pointing out that those who undergo five-year integrated law courses would become eligible to practice as a lawyer at the age of 22 itself, he said, it was unfair to expect such people to continue to practice for as many as 15 years before they could become eligible to apply for the post of district judge even if they were academically better than others.

He also contended that the minimum age criteria would actually end up disqualifying bright candidates with a longer professional experience just because they were young and instead encourage other people who might have obtained their law degrees at a relatively old age and had practised law just for seven years.

Thwarted ambition

Stating that he himself had lost three valuable years before he could get admitted into the National School of Law University as he could not clear the entrance test in one attempt, the petitioner said his ambition was to become a judge and that got thwarted now because of the minimum age criteria.

In the meantime, the Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) too had filed a separate writ petition stating that when only 25% of district judge vacancies in the State were to be filled through direct recruitment, and the rest were to be filled up through promotions, serving judicial officers should not be permitted to compete through direct recruitment. The petition filed through MHAA secretary R. Krishnakumar was already listed before the special Division Bench which had ordered notices to the State as well as the Registrar General of the High Court returnable by March 18.

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