(1.)The facts relevant for the purposes of this writ petition are as follows :
The State of Andhra Pradesh established Family Courts and Mahila Courts. The High Court of Andhra Pradesh desired that these Courts be manned by women. However,in the cadre of District and Sessions Judges, Grade II there were not enough women Judges who could be posted in these Courts. Therefore the High Court requested the State to create additional posts. On 3rd September, 1996 the State Government issued Office Memorandum No. 172 sanctioning 10 additional posts of District and Sessions Judges, Grade II. The relevant portion of the said Memorandum reads as follows :
"The Registrar, High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, has informed in his letter 6th read above that six Family Courts in the cadre of District and Sessions Judge were sanctioned at Visakhapatnam, Hyderbad, Vijayawada, Kurnool, Tirupathi and Warangal in the G.O. 3rd read above and another Family Court at Secunderabad was sanctioned in the G.O. 5th read above. The Registrar, High Court of Andhra Pradesh has further stated that the High Court considers it necessary to post lady District Judges to preside over the Family Courts in the State with a view to protect and preserve that institution of marriage and to promote the welfare of the children as stipulated in Rule4(4) (a) and (b) of the Family Court Act, 1984, but due to non-availability of women judicial officers in the cadre of District Judges, the High Court is unable to post Lady District Judges to the Family Courts. The Registrar has also stated that Mahila Courts with lady presiding Officers at Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam were sanctioned exclusively to deal with offences against women, in the G.Os. first and fourth read above. The Registrar, High Court of Andhra Pradesh has finally requested that 10 posts of District and Sessions Judge, Grade II, be sanctioned in addition to the existing cadre strength, exclusively to recruit the women candidates by direct recruitment, for being posted to the Family Courts and Mahila Courts in the State.
2. Government after careful consideration of the matter hereby sanction in relaxation of Rule 2 of the Special Rules for the A.P. State Higher Judicial Service, 10 posts of District and Sessions Judges, Grade II, in addition to the existing cadre strength, exclusively for women candidates to be recruited by direct recruitment."
(2.)Pursuant to this Memorandum the High Court issued an Advertisement inviting applications from women candidates for appointment to the post of District and Sessions Judge, Grade II. The advertisement specified that five posts would be available for open competition, two posts for the Scheduled Castes, one post for the Scheduled Tribe, one post for Backward Class Group A and one post for Backward Class Group B.
(3.)Pursuant to this advertisement 261 candidates applied for the posts. The High Court called 210 candidates for a written examination. 180 candidates participated in the written examination. The High Court then called 35 candidates for oral interviews. The oral interviews were conducted on 20th and 21st of March, 1997. A panel of 10 candidates was prepared. The 10 candidates were asked to furnish further information relating to their legal practice. After receipt of the information the High Court rejected one name. A panel of nine candidates was then approved at Full Court meetings held on 17th September, 1997 and again on 17th October,1997. This panel consisted of seven candidates from the open category, one from Scheduled Caste and one from Backward Class Group D. The High Court then sent the names of the nine candidates to the State Government for appointment.