New Delhi: The Supreme Court registry has told the Delhi High Court that the process of engagement of law researchers by it is "not open to judicial scrutiny" as there is no employer-employee relationship between them.
"The professional engagement of a person qualified in law cannot be equated with the appointment in a civil post as there does not exist a relationship of employee and employer between the respondent (SC) herein and the law researcher in this case.
"Nature of law researcher who is qualified in law vis-a-vis the respondent herein being in the nature of personal engagement and an avocations, the said process of engagement is not open to judicial scrutiny," Raj Pal Arora, Registrar (Administration General) of Supreme Court, said in an affidavit submitted before Justice Rajiv Shakdher.
The affidavit was filed in reply to a plea filed by Phaguni Nilesh Lal, a final year law student of Army Institute of Law in Mohali, alleging that she was refused opportunity to apply for the post of `Law Clerks-cum-Research Assistants` for 2013-14 with the apex court in violation of her right to equality on the ground that her institute was not on the list of approved panel.
"The system of engaging Law Clerk-cum-Research assistant has been in vogue in Supreme Court since long. It was intended to provide assistance to Hon`ble Judges in academic research.
The engagement of law clerks was expected to be in the nature of a personal engagement and an avocation rather than a strict professional engagement," the reply said, adding the scheme of selection has been "evolved by the orders of the Chief Justice of India" by empanelling colleges "inter-alia of known reputation especially the National Law Schools."
The apex court registry took the plea that the "concept of public office does not come into play" in engaging the law researchers and "no one can claim a right to be appointed/ selected because it is a position of great trust and confidence."
During the hearing, Rajeev Sharma, the counsel for law student, pointed out to the court that the apex court registry has refused to part with certain information under Right to Information (RTI) Act on the grounds that the matter is pending in the High Court.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher, in the order, clarified that the Supreme Court registry was not prohibited from giving requisite information sought by the student under RTI.
The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on March 19.
Earlier, the court had asked the apex court registry to submit details of any guidelines for empanelment of law schools whose students can apply for the posts of research associates with it.
The law student, in her plea, had said that the Supreme Court recruits final year LL.B students as research assistants for "short term assignments".
She was denied permission to apply on the grounds that her college was not empanelled, the plea had said and sought a direction that students of all institutions recognised by the Bar Council of India be considered for the posts.
For employing research assistants, the high courts adopt the same scheme based on merits and allow students of all law colleges to apply, while the Supreme Court has allegedly given preferences to students of some institutes only, it claimed.
The SC Registry took a plea during the hearing that such applications have to be "routed through the concerned law college" and that the institution should be empanelled with it.