Delhi High Court Directs Government to Grant Relaxation to the Law Degree Condition as a pre-requisite for Court Officer’s Post in NCLT
States it is only ‘preferable’ and not mandatory as per the Rules
The Delhi High Court has directed the Government of India to consider the petitioner’s case for granting relaxation to the law degree condition as a requirement for the court officer’s post in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). Also, if relaxation is granted, the petitioner be given a retrospective appointment from the date she became eligible.
The single judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva stated that the impugned rules were notified much after the petitioner was transferred from the Company Law Board and appointed on deputation to the post of a court officer.
The only reason for not considering the petitioner’s case for relaxation was, “It is not justifiable to amend the rules to deal with a case of a single employee.” It was contended that the power to relax any provision had to be based on class or category of persons. However, since it was a lone case where relaxation was sought, it could not be granted.
The Court stated that the petitioner had completed eight years of service as an assistant and discharged the functions of the court officer for over six years as the assistant registrar since 6 March 2022. But she was denied promotions. Therefore, she was entitled to be considered for the grant of relaxation of the law degree condition in terms of Rule 16.
The petitioner impugned the condition at Serial No. 9 in Schedule I of the National Company Law Tribunal (Recruitment, Salary and other Terms and Conditions of Service of Officers and other Employees) Rules, 2020 (Rules) issued by the Union of India. It was stated that a degree in law was prescribed as a qualification for an assistant to be promoted to the post of a court officer in Respondent 3, NCLT.
On 21 January 2020, the respondent had notified the impugned rules, which prescribed that the court officer’s post would be filled by 100 percent promotion from the feeder post of senior legal assistant with two years of regular service in Level 7 of Pay Matrix or from the post of assistant, with a law degree, and six years regular service in Level 6 in Pay Matrix.
Furthermore, the rules prescribed that in case of deputation/absorption to the same post, a degree was ‘preferable’. On 26 June 2020, the deputy registrar of, NCLT, New Delhi made a request to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to grant a one-time relaxation to the petitioner in terms of Rule 16 (Power to Relax) in the notified Recruitment Rules.
The request was made for relaxation for the promotion of the petitioner in the feeder cadre of assistant to the post of the court officer without insisting on a degree of law as a prerequisite.
The Judge stated that the impugned rules read with the counter affidavit, clearly showed that a degree was not mandatory for the post of a court officer. The charter of duties of the court officer was concerned with registry matters. It was not the stand of the respondents that the court officer was also performing quasi-judicial functions apart from dealing with administrative matters.
Thus, the impugned rules contemplated a situation where a person not possessing a degree, but appointed on deputation, may be absorbed. This was sought to be explained in the court affidavit by contending that, “the degree in law was kept preferably on the basis of suggestions given by NCLT.”
The bench ruled that as per Rule 16, the Central government had the power to relax any provision in consultation with the president of the tribunal. It added that on 4 August 2020, the president had recommended to the respondent the necessary relaxation in the terms.