Madras High Court
Madras High Court
Litigation News

Madras HC directs that Advocates be allowed to apply for appointment as DRT Presiding Officer pending challenge to Tribunal Rules, 2020

The June 23 notification inviting applications had stated that only those persons who have served as a District Judge are eligible to apply for the post.

Meera Emmanuel

The Madras High Court on Friday passed an interim order to allow Advocates to also apply for the post of Presiding Officer of the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in response to a call for applications issued by the Union Finance Ministry on June 23, this year (Revenue Bar Association and anr v. UOI and ors.).

The interim relief was granted while dealing with two writ petitions filed challenging the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020 (“Rules”).

Whereas the High Court had issued notice in this plea earlier this year, the Bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthil Ramamoorthy today observed that the respondent authorities were yet to file their response.

One of the grounds on which the 2020 Rules has been challenged is that they exclude advocates from being appointed to the DRT. The Bench observed today that when the plea had come up before the High Court back in March this year, it had passed an interim order clarifying that all selections made to the DRT would be subject to the final outcome of the case before it.

"This order was passed in anticipation that the matter would be heard and disposed of. But, till date we find that no response has come forward from the respondents either by way of a counter-affidavit or otherwise", the Court observed today.

In the meanwhile, the June 23 call for applications to fill Presiding Officer vacancies for the DRT specified that "A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Presiding Officer of the Debts Recovery Tribunal unless he is, or has been, a District Judge."

In this backdrop, and given that the final date for applications to the post was August 3, the Court has ordered the respondent-authorities to also accept applications that may be filed by Advocates who claim to be eligible for appointment as DRT Presiding Officers.

The order passed to this effect states,

"Keeping in view the fact that the last date for receipt of applications is 03.08.2020, we direct that the respondents shall also accept the applications that may be filed by Advocates, who claim to be eligible for such appointment and also show cause as to why such applicants be not considered eligible for the posts in question. "
Madras High Court

The Court, however, clarified that the final appointments to the DRT would again be subject to the outcome of the pleas before it.

"...the participation of the Advocates so permitted will not create any right in their favour and selection, if any, and the final selections shall not be announced except with the leave of this Court or any other appropriate orders that may be passed in future," the Court clarified.

The matter has been posted for further hearing on August 28, by which time the respondent-authorities are expected to file their responses.

Advocate Rahul Unnikrishnan appeared today for the Revenue Bar Association, one of the petitioners in the matter. Advocate L Chandrakumar appeared for the other petitioner, the Recovery Tribunal Advocates Association.

The respondent authorities were represented by Counsel AP Srinivas, D Venkataswamy Babu and ASG R Sankaranarayanan, assisted by Advocate Ramachandramoorthy.

Read the Order:

RBA and anr v. UOI and ors.pdf

Read the June 23 notification:

DRT PO Vacancy notification.pdf
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