It is the sole power of the chief justice to appoint a person on any post in the high court, as per requirement.
Of this requirement, the chief justice is the best judge, the Punjab and Haryana high court has said, defending “out of turn” promotions to a driver, now protocol officer with chief justice. “…where the discretionary administrative powers are exercised by a competent authority in good faith and upon due application of mind, such exercise of discretion ought not to be interfered with unless there are strong and convincing grounds to show that the discretion vested in an authority has been blatantly abused..,” Barinder Singh Romana, (officer on special duty) vigilance, HC, has said in response to a petition challenging “out of turn” promotions to Rajbir Singh.
Recruited as driver in 1991, Rajbir was given “out of turn” promotion in 2010 as senior assistant and later to superintendent-grade-II (deputy superintendent) in July 2014 and designated as protocol officer to the chief justice.
The 2010 appointment was done by then chief justice Mukul Mudgal (now retired) and subsequent promotion by then chief justice, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, days before his transfer to Madras high court.
Both the decisions of the then chief justices have been challenged by 18 high court senior assistants, whom Rajbir Singh had superseded in 2014. They have sought directions to promote them from the date he was promoted. They had also argued that service rules do not permit promotion from the post of driver to the post of senior assistant and that he could have been promoted only to the post of supervisor to the drivers.
The HC administration has sought dismissal of the petition with ‘exemplary costs’ claiming that relief sought was after a delay of five years, since the date of Rajbir’s appointment.
Defending the 2010 appointment from the post of driver to senior assistant, the HC says that being a graduate he was eligible to be considered for the post and was considered for appointment as he discharged his duties as driver ‘diligently and efficiently’.
“The chief justice has the discretionary powers to relax rules even in a case of an individual keeping in view the spirit and ambit of Article 229 of Constitution of India in the administrative matters of the HC,” the affidavit says.
On his promotion to deputy superintendent, the affidavit says he was promoted keeping in view his “dedication ....meritorious service record” as protocol officer, again by, “discretionary administrative powers”.