Legal Challenge to the Amendment of Madhya Pradesh Judicial Service Recruitment Rules: A Case Analysis

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Background of the Case

The Governor of Madhya Pradesh, in consultation with the High Court, vide Office Notification dated June 23, 2023, made certain substantial changes to the Madhya Pradesh Judicial Service (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 1994. Among the various alterations proposed by the order, one particular change has stirred discontent among aspirants for judicial service, notably regarding the modification to Rule 7. The substituted Rule 7 intends to, vide proviso to Rule 7(g) (hereinafter referred to  as “impugned amendment”), place an additional eligibility criterion on aspirants, of either having an experience of three years as a ‘practicing’ advocate, or being an ‘outstanding’ law graduate with a ‘brilliant academic career’ having passed all exams on the first attempt by securing at least 70% marks in aggregate (for General & Other Backward Class category candidates) and 50% marks for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories.

The chronology of the current issue unfolds as follows:

The impugned amendment was passed by the State Government of Madhya Pradesh with the consultation of the High Court, and it was challenged through around 18 writ petitions in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh (MP). The High Court of MP upheld the impugned amendment in the case of Devansh Kaushik vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh and Anr (WRIT PETITION No.15150 of 2023, M.P High Court). (Hereinafter referred as “Devansh Kaushik case”) Subsequently, the Supreme Court of India heard two special leave petitions, SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9570/2024 and SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9630/2024. Both were dismissed summarily in orders dated April 26, 2024, and May 3, 2024, respectively.

Our contention divided into five broad grounds given below: –

  1. The impugned amendment passed by the State of Madhya Pradesh in consultation with the High Court violates Article 14, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
  2. The adjudication by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Devansh Kaushik vs The State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr goes against the very principles of natural justice; therefore, it is bad in law.
  3. Non-compliance of paragraph 32 and paragraph 40 of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of All India Judges’ Association and others vs. Union of India and others reported in (2002) 4 SCC 247.
  4. The impugned amendment is retroactive/retrospective and that the candidate should have cleared all exams in the first attempt, is arbitrary, unfair and unreasonable hence violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India
  5. The summary dismissal of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs): SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9570/2024 and SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9630/2024 by the Supreme Court of India.

The impugned amendment passed by the State of Madhya Pradesh in consultation with the High Court violates Article 14, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India

The impugned amendment is inherently discriminatory and stands on dubious legal ground because Prima facie, it violates Article 14 read with Article 16 of the Constitution by aiming to create two distinct classes of aspirants – one having attained 70% aggregate in their degree certificate (LL.B.) on the first attempt at every examination, and the other being that of aspirants who have continuously practiced for three years. In the absence of the 70% at the graduation stage, a candidate would be required to undergo three years of legal training to attain the same level of eligibility that another candidate with 70% had since day one after graduation, thus placing them unequally despite both possessing a uniform degree of three-year/five-year LL.B., thereby creating an unreasonable classification.

The Supreme Court in Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar, AIR 1958 SC 538 held in unequivocal terms that the classification must not be arbitrary but rational, wherein the intelligible differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved. The Supreme Court ruled that a classification is unreasonable “if it is illogical, unfair, and unjust.” It is still unclear what research, survey, or report, if any, the High Court has used as support. If a report, survey, or study was carried out at all, it did not address the glaring disparity in the marking practices of Indian universities. Private universities, on the other hand, are notorious for dispensing marks as high as 90%, with several Indian universities boasting an average batch percentage of 80–85%. At places like National Law School of India University, Bangalore, Other NLUs, Delhi University, receiving a 65% is considered a story for the history books.

The adjudication by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Devansh Kaushik vs The State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr goes against the very principles of natural justice; therefore, it is bad in law

The notification (with respect to impugned amendment) mentions that the Governor of Madhya Pradesh has issued it in consultation with the High Court. The Supreme Court in Gauhati High Court v. Kuladhar Phukan AIR 2002 SC 1589 established the supremacy of the concerned High Court over the subordinate judiciary in the respective state. The Court went so far as to state that the ‘consultation’ with the High Court for judicial service rules is mandatory, and that the High Court’s opinion is binding upon the Governor. Therefore, it can safely be assumed that in the instant case, the Governor has acted in consultation and consonance with the High Court, which, on the administrative side, has opined that the 70% percentage eligibility criteria and the three-year experience rule as prudent. Rule 5 of the MP Judicial Service Rules prescribe the High Court as the appointing authority and Rule 9 makes the decision on the High Court on questions of eligibility as final. Thus, essentially, any litigation or challenge that took place before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh must include the High Court, and the State of Madhya Pradesh as parties, which would have otherwise taken place before the Supreme Court. The reason for the Supreme Court to be a preferential forum of challenge on the question of law is the intrinsic involvement of the Chief Justice of the High Court in the entire process of formulating these Rules and the recruitment process. In any case, the Chief Justice has been granted the power of relaxation under the now amended Rule 19 of the MP Rules, making him/her an interested party in the adjudication of the matter.Thus, in the above case, the adjudication by the High Court was against the very principles of natural justice, as espoused and discussed in detail by the Supreme Court in Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association and Anr. v. Union of India, 2015 (Recusal Matter), wherein the Pinochet Principle is discussed in detail. As per this principle, if a judge is interested in a cause being promoted by one of the parties, then he is automatically disqualified from hearing the case. Since the bench of High Court was consulted before the notification of the impugned amendment, that disqualifies the bench, including the Chief Justice, from hearing any challenge to the impugned amendment.

Non-compliance of paragraph 32 and paragraph 40 of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of All India Judges’ Association and others vs. Union of India and others reported in (2002) 4 SCC 247

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of All India Judges’ Association and others vs. Union of India and others reported in (2002) 4 SCC 247, held in paragraph 40 as follows:

40. Any clarification that may be required in respect of any matter arising out of this decision will be sought only from this Court. The proceedings, if any, for implementation of the directions given in this judgment shall be filed only in this Court and no other court shall entertain them.”

The direction as contained in paragraph 32 of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the second All India Judges’ Association and others vs. Union of India and others reported in (2002) 4 SCC 247 is as follows:

32. In All India Judges’ Assn. case [(1993) 4 SCC 288 : 1994 SCC (L&S) 148 : 0.(1993) 25 ATC 818] (SCC at p. 314) this Court has observed that in order to enter the judicial service, an applicant must be an advocate of at least three years’ standing. Rules were amended accordingly. With the passage of time, experience has shown that the best talent which is available is not attracted to the judicial service. A bright young law graduate, after 3 years of practice, finds the judicial service not attractive enough. It has been recommended by the Shetty Commission, after taking into consideration the views expressed before it by various authorities, that the need for an applicant to have been an advocate for at least 3 years should be done away with. After taking all the circumstances into consideration, we accept this recommendation of the Shetty Commission and the argument of the learned amicus curiae that it should be no longer mandatory for an applicant desirous of entering the judicial service to be an advocate of at least three years’ standing. We, accordingly, in the light of experience gained after the judgment in All India Judges case direct to the High Courts and to the State Governments to amend their rules so as to enable a fresh law graduate who may not even have put in three years of practice, to be eligible to compete and enter the judicial service. We, however, recommend that a fresh recruit into the judicial service should be imparted training of not less than one year, preferably two years.”

The High Court misinterpreted Paragraphs 32 and 40 and did not follow the guidelines set forth in Supreme Court’s judgment in All India Judges’ Association and others vs. Union of India and others (2002) 4 SCC 247. Paragraph 40 explicitly states: “Any clarification that may be required in respect of any matter arising out of this decision will be sought only from this Court.” The use of the words “Any clarification,” “Any matter,” and “this Court” by the Supreme Court clearly and explicitly mandates that the High Court (as a state entity as well as adjudicating authority), the Governor, and the State of Madhya Pradesh must seek permission from the Supreme Court before making any amendments relating to three year practice inclusion to the MP Judicial Services rules and upholding the same. They did not do so, which constitutes a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s directive.

The High Court unnecessarily incorporated Paragraph 8.35 of the Shetty Commission’s recommendation in its reasoning. Instead of referring to Paragraph 8.35 of the Shetty Commission’s recommendation, the High Court should have followed Paragraph 32 of the Supreme Court’s directives.

If the High Court was so interested in the recommendations of the Shetty Commission, how did it miss the two recommendations that clearly state that students graduating from institutes like National Law Universities are better equipped and more informed than a junior advocate with three years of standing.

The High Court also emphasized the word “mandatory” and stated that it is not a mandatory criterion, but rather “optional.” However, the High Court failed to recognize that it shall only be “optional” for those who are first or second year law students have notice of the impugned amendment, and where the marking or grade scheme is not strict enough to prevent students from accelerating their marks by studying hard or by any wrongful means. These college students are not even eligible to write exams because they do not have a law degree yet. It is quite difficult for students who are already in the middle of their graduation to suddenly increase their grades if they did not perform well at first unless they are in a dummy college. For students who have already graduated with less than 70%, this criterion is essentially “mandatory.” As a result, we can confidently conclude that the High Court’s criteria are mandatory for the vast majority of pupils. Furthermore, students who may have passed the preliminary and main examinations numerous times but not the interview are now unfairly disqualified without notice as a result of the impugned amendment. It is false to argue that these students are not potential candidates for the Judicial Service exam. The rationale behind the impugned amendment, as well as the High Court’s reasoning in the Devansh Kaushik case, is confusing and beyond understanding for the entire legal fraternity.

Then the High Court’s reasoning stated, “When a brilliant law graduate has been defined as one who possesses 70% in aggregate, necessarily a brilliant academic career cannot include one who has failed in any subject. In case a candidate has failed in any subject, necessarily he cannot be considered to possess a brilliant academic career. We need not labor much on this point since it is quite clear that brilliance and failure are antonyms.”

The author argues that brilliance and being exceptional are not static concepts. These characteristics can be acquired by any student at any time; they are not limited to a 5- or 3-year term of a law course. Implementing the impugned amendment using these phrases as eligibility criteria for the exam undermines the objective of holding competitive examinations. The purpose of competitive exams is to give everyone an opportunity, whether they are a struggling student or a brilliant/talented one. Students who are initially weak can become brilliant with hard effort before taking the Judicial Services exam. Hence, the purpose of competitive exams is to select those who are meritorious, brilliant, and outstanding through a well-recognized process, giving everyone an equal chance and it need not to change. The author also want to emphasize the phrase “passed all exams on the first attempt” in the impugned amendment. There is no rationale for including such an ambiguous, vague, and unreasonable phrase, especially in the rules for competitive exams. This again defeats the very purpose of conducting competitive exams. It is safe to argue that there is not a single government service exam in India that imposes this kind of unreasonable restriction to sit for the competition. While we  admire the fact that the standard for the judiciary is higher than for other government services, this does not justify imposing unreasonable criteria for judiciary aspirants. The author do not want to compare the judiciary to other government services, but for the sake of clarity, We need to mention the Civil Service competitive exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). As we all know, the UPSC exam is not only one of the toughest exams in India but also in the world. The eligibility criteria for the UPSC exam are very simple: a student must possess a graduation degree with minimum passing marks. They give everyone an equal chance to compete in the examination, regardless of whether they passed all their exams on the first attempt. This is not a concern for the UPSC. Our point is, when such a reputable service does not make unreasonable classifications among students based on whether they passed their exams on the first attempt or not, why are the state government of Madhya Pradesh and the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in such a hurry to impose these unreasonable restrictions on judiciary aspirants?

The impugned amendment is retroactive/retrospective in nature and violates Article 14, Article 16, Article 19, and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

The impugned amendment violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality  before the law, for those who have passed their LL.B. examinations with less than

70% but are preparing for the judicial service examination in Madhya Pradesh without pursuing a career in litigation. This new classification was not in place when these students received their degrees, thus infringing upon their legitimate expectation. The Supreme Court’s judgment in the Navjyoti Cooperative Group Housing Society v. Union of India AIR1993SC155 case established that “if someone enjoys a certain benefit under an old policy, they have a legitimate expectation that this benefit will not be taken away without a reasonable basis or without giving them a chance to present their case.” In this situation, the classification is neither reasonable nor were the affected students given an opportunity to address their grievances, thereby violated their rights under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. The restriction imposed by the impugned amendment is not in the interest of the general public, as it adversely affects many judiciary aspirants. A significant number of candidates was disqualified from the mains examination of MPCJ, 2022. According to the notification dated 10/05/2024 released by the MP High Court, only 77 students qualified for the interview round, whereas the total number of available seats was 195. The MPCJ notification for 2022 stated that the number of selected candidates should be three times the number of vacancies, i.e., 585. However, out of these 585 candidates, only 77 were selected for the interview round. It is also important to note that only three Scheduled Caste students qualified for a total of 19 available seats, and all Scheduled Tribe students were disqualified in the mains examination. No candidate from the Scheduled Tribe category was selected for the interview round, despite 121 vacant seats being available. Therefore, this impugned amendment not only violates Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to practice any profession, but also violates Article 16, which ensures equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.

The retrospective effect of the impugned amendment also violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution for those who aspired to write the judiciary exam before this amendment was introduced. For many students, this might be their last opportunity to clear the exam due to age restrictions. Many students may have foregone other career opportunities to dedicate their time to preparing for the judiciary exam. Additionally, some students may have chosen not to practice in court due to the high registration fees required by the Bar Council, which they could not afford. These students have dedicated significant time and effort to preparing for the MPCJ exam. By imposing restrictions through the impugned amendment, the students’ right to livelihood, which is part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, is being violated. This amendment places an undue burden on students who have invested their resources and time based on the previous eligibility criteria, effectively disrupting their career plans and financial stability.

The summary dismissal of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs): SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9570/2024 and SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9630/2024 by the Supreme Court of India.

The summary dismissal of two Special Leave Petitions (SLPs), SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9570/2024 and SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9630/2024, by the Supreme Court of India without a proper hearing and without considering the merits of the case was a nail in the coffin for every judiciary aspirant. These cases involve the careers of a significant number of candidates. In the case of Palam Gas Service v. CIT (2017) 7 SCC 613, it was reiterated that the dismissal of an SLP by the Supreme Court in limine does not confirm the view of the High Court. Similarly, in the case of Commissioner of Income Tax v. Manjunatheshwar Packing Products and Champhor Works AIR 1998 SC 1478, the Supreme Court observed that the summary dismissal of an SLP does not mean that the Supreme Court approves the view taken by the High Court. Furthermore, in the case of Union of India v. Jaipal Singh AIR 2004 SC 1005, it was stated that when the Supreme Court summarily dismisses an SLP under Article 136, such a dismissal does not lay down any law as envisaged by Article 141 of the Constitution of India, nor does it constitute a binding precedent. These rulings make it clear that a summary dismissal by the Supreme Court does not imply endorsement of the MP High Court’s decision on impugned amendment and does not establish any legal precedent. 


  1. Constitutional Violations: The impugned amendment violates Articles 14, 16, 19(1)(g), and 21 of the Constitution of India, raising several substantial questions of law.
  2. Impact on Students’ Careers: The careers of a significant number of students are adversely affected by the impugned amendment under the Madhya Pradesh Judicial Services Rules, 1994. The impact of the amendment is clearly visible in the result of the mains examination, only qualified 77 candidates instead of 585.
  3. Judgment Ambiguities: Prima facie, there are serious ambiguities and flaws in the judgment given by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, which puts many students’ careers at stake.
  4. Discrediting CLAT and NLU Purpose: The impugned amendment undermines the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) and the purpose of establishing National Law Universities (NLUs). To pass the CLAT and secure admission to a good college, students often take at least a one-year drop. They then complete a five-year course. If a student fails any subject or does not achieve 70%, they must practice for three years. Thus, the total time taken by a student just to be eligible to sit for the judiciary exam is nine years. This makes students eligible at 27 years old, while a student can become an IAS officer by age 21 or 22. The impugned amendment and the MP High Court decision are inherently discriminatory and will hamper the future recruitment of brilliant and outstanding students into the judiciary.
  5. Future Quality of Judges: Implementing the impugned amendment will make it difficult to ensure the quality of future judges. Students will avoid CLAT and instead opt for private colleges where scoring 70% is easier, simply to meet the high threshold eligibility criteria of MP Judicial Services. This will ultimately degrade the quality of legal education and judiciary aspirants.
  6. Defeating the Purpose of Competitive Exams: The very purpose of competitive exams for judicial services is defeated by the impugned amendment. Competitive exams are designed to provide equal opportunities to all aspirants, regardless of their academic background. By imposing such a high and rigid academic threshold, the amendment undermines the fairness and inclusivity that are fundamental to competitive examinations.
  7. Unreasonable Discretion and Mental Stress: The present amendment places unreasonably high discretion in the hands of universities and teachers awarding marks to students in each semester and in each paper. Knowing that one semester back or one mark less in the examination would set the student back by three years will promote favoritism and sycophancy, and place uncalled-for mental stress on LL.B. students.

Additionally, we would like to highlight that such high and uniform academic thresholds do not consider the diverse backgrounds and personal challenges faced by students. An inclusive approach that evaluates candidates based on their overall potential and capabilities, rather than just academic scores, would be more equitable and effective in selecting competent judges. The judiciary must strive for excellence, but this should be balanced with fairness and inclusivity, ensuring opportunities for all deserving candidates.

This article is authored by Mr. Akshay Parmar (NLU Odisha Graduate, Advocate in M.P High Court) and Mr. Mahendra Singh (NLS Banglore Graduate).

Views expressed are personal.


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