Supreme Court Exempts Former High Court Judges from Exams for Consumer Commission Appointments

In a notable verdict delivered on Thursday, the Supreme Court of India articulated that former High Court judges should be exempted from undergoing examinations for their appointments as heads of state consumer commissions. The observation was made by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud during the hearing of a case that questioned the selection process for the leadership positions within these commissions.

The Supreme Court’s directive comes in response to appeals against a notification issued by the central government in September 2023, which mandated written examinations covering general knowledge among other subjects for candidates aspiring to be heads and members of state and district consumer forums. This notification was challenged in the apex court, leading to the current ruling.

Chief Justice Chandrachud remarked on the impracticality of expecting former High Court judges to take exams for such appointments, drawing a parallel to the absurdity of asking a former Supreme Court judge to undergo an environmental test before being appointed as the chairperson of the National Green Tribunal. He highlighted that eligibility for district forum presidents could include former district judges or equivalent judicial officers, emphasizing the need for qualified individuals in these roles.

The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, voiced concerns over the absence of an examination process potentially leading to unqualified individuals securing positions through the back door. They warned against leaving such appointments to the discretion of states due to the risks of unbridled discretionary powers.

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The court has, for the time being, directed that written and oral examinations not be required for the appointment of state consumer commission heads. It clarified that such appointments should be made with the consultation and consent of the chief justices of the respective high courts, ensuring a measured and judicious selection process.

This ruling marks a significant shift from the central government’s earlier stance, which aligned with the Supreme Court’s March 2023 decision mandating exams for the selection process in consumer forums. The government had recently expressed a desire to amend these rules, arguing that exams were neither “feasible” nor “desirable” and recommended exemptions for the heads of state and district consumer commissions from such examinations.

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