SC relaxes upper limit for age-barred candidates for judicial exams 2022

The Supreme Court on Monday said that prescribing a minimum age limit for the selection of district judges is not contrary to the Constitution, as it relaxed the upper-age limit of 32 years for the Delhi Judicial Service Examination (DJSE) and 45 years for the Delhi Higher Judicial Service Examination (DHJSE) for candidates who were eligible in 2020 and 2021.

These candidates have become age-barred in the current year.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.S. Bopanna, and Hima Kohli said the court will permit candidates eligible in 2020 and 2021, when they have not crossed the age of 32 years, to appear in the examinations this year as it upheld the Delhi High Court’s decision allowing a minimum 35 years of age for candidates to apply for higher judicial service examination.

The bench added: “We will also extend the same benefit for the ones who had not crossed the upper age limit of 45 years in 2020 and 2021 for the Delhi Higher Judicial Service Examination this year.”

It clarified that the age relaxation is given as a one-time measure against the backdrop of extraordinary circumstances due to Covid.

Several senior advocates including Siddharth Luthra, Anita Shenoy, and A.S. Chandhiok and others, on behalf of petitioners, questioned the Delhi High Court’s decision, prescribing the minimum age of 35 years to apply for the higher judicial services examinations.

The bench noted that Article 233(2) of Constitution, only prescribes a minimum eligibility for an advocate — at least seven years practice — for selection as a district judge, and does not impede the requirement of a minimum age requirement. The Constitution is silent in connection with the prescription of minimum age, and the high courts can decide on such a requirement, it added.

The top court also extended the last date for filling up of applications for the DJSE and DHJSE, which will now be April 3 and March 26. The DJSE and DHJSE will be conducted on April 24 and April 3.

The bench noted that the high court was correct in prescribing a requirement which ensures that candidates with sufficient maturity enter the fold of the higher judicial services.

The counsel, involved in the matter, pressed on the Constitution’s Article 233 (2) and added that the high court removed the minimum age requirement of 35 years in 2019, however it was re-introduced in February 2022.

The bench pointed out that Shetty Commission has recommended 35 years minimum age and 45 years as maximum age for district judges’ selection.

After hearing a detailed argument, the top court permitted a one-time relaxation to those who crossed the maximum age of 45 years as the examinations could not be held in 2020 and 2021, due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

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