Despite opposition from the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) Punjab, the Chief Minister Punjab gave one time dispensation to the Lahore High Court (LHC) for filling 135 posts of Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrates by providing relaxation in relevant rules.
The Lahore High Court had requested the competent authority to allow the court to make recruitment against 135 vacant posts by holding written examination and interview, instead of referring the matter to the Punjab Public Service Commissions in relaxation of rule 5 of Punjab Judicial Service Rules 1994.
As per the rule 5 of Punjab Judicial Service Rules 1994, appointment to a post of Civil judge-cum-judicial magistrate could be made by initial recruitment on the recommendation of the commission based on the result of a competitive examination.
However, the Rule 5 of the Punjab Public Service (Functions) 1978 empowers Punjab chief minister to take any post from the purview of the PPSC for recruitment.
It was in this perspective that the LHC had sought approval from the CM for filling these posts on immediate to cope with pending cases keeping in view the great expectations of the litigants.
The LHC Chief Justice, in a summary addressed to the chief minister, had maintained that against the sanctioned strength of 990 Civil Judges, 854 Civil Judges were working in the filed and 135 posts of Civil Judges, including 3 posts of Lady Civil Judges, are lying vacant.
The LHC Chief Justice argued that a pendency of 851,260 cases is also to be coped with, which means a workload of 997 cases comes to each court, however, with the induction on the vacant posts, the workload could reduce to 859 cases per court.
Further justifying its position, the LHC Chief Justice had observed that the approval of the competent authority was required to allow the court make recruitment against the posts.
The honourable LHC CJ maintained that under rule 5 of the Punjab Public Service Commission (Function) Rules 1978, the chief minister is empowered, in public interest, to fill such posts without referring to the Commission.
The CJ further argued in the summary that earlier the government had also allowed the court to make recruitment of 100 posts of civil judges firstly vide notification No.1-1/2003-SO (Admn-IV) dated 12.08.2006 and secondly vide notification No 1-1.2003-SO (Admin-IV), dated 24.07.2009 for recruitment of 299 posts of civil judges including 29 posts of lady judges.
The LHC Chief Justice submitted that on a reference dated 15.07.2006 from Lahore High Court, 100 posts of Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrate (BS-17) were taken out of the purview of the Punjab Public Service Commission under Rule 5 of the Punjab Public Service Commission (Functions) Rules 1978 and placed at the disposal of Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court for making recruitment of the eligible persons in accordance with provisions of the Punjab Judicial Service Rules, 1994 read with Punjab Government Recruitment Policy, 2004, vide notification dated 12.08.2006 with the approval of Punjab Chief Minister.
On another reference made by the LHC Chief Justice dated 22.06.2009, 200 posts of Civil Judges-cum-Judicial magistrate (Bs-17) and 29 posts of Lady Civil Judges were taken out from the purview of the PPSC under rule 5 of the PPSC (functions) 1978 and placed at the disposal of LHC Chief Justice for making recruitment vide notification 24.7.2009 with the approval of the Punjab CM.
He asked for that in the light of Sindh Judicial Service Rules 1994, the Sindh High Court also makes recruitment of civil judges as and when occasion arises to cope with the workload of cases.
When the case was referred to S&GAD, the department after examining the case maintained that posts of Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrates are also required to be filed through PPSC, but added Punjab CM may withdraw the posts from the purview of PPSC under rule 5 of the Punjab Public Service Commission (functions) rules 1978.
However, it submitted that the government should benefit from the expertise available with the PSSC in order to ensure merit-based selection against the posts of Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrates.
It said that nothing is on record to show that PPSC was ever approached for this purpose and it expressed inability to make selection within a short span of time.
In order to avoid any delay in the recruitment process, the PPSC may be directed to complete the recruitment within a period of four to five months.
At least one post of member of PPSC is required to be filled from the retired judges of the judiciary. The purpose of appointment of a retired judge is to especially deal with the selection against the posts of Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrates.
The S&GAD observed that since there is no justification for withdrawal of the posts of Civil Judges-com-Judicial Magistrates from the purview of the PPSC, therefore the proposal should not be supported.
It is pertinent to mention here that Rule 5 of the Punjab Judicial Service Rules, 1994 says, “Appointment to a post of Civil Judge-cum-Judicial Magistrate, shall be made by initial recruitment on the recommendation of the Commission based on the result of a competitive examination conducted by it in the subjects specified in the appendix to those rules.”
However, rule 5 of the PPSC (Functions) 1978, empowers the Punjab chief minister to take any post from the purview of the PPSC for recruitment the rules says that “Notwithstanding anything contained in rule 3, the chief minister may in the public interest, specify posts which may be filled without reference to the Commission by persons possessing such qualifications and experience and in such manner as he may determine.”