Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought on Monday a debate on creating an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) and inclusion of people from the lower strata of society into the judicial system.
HT reported on October 18 that the Centre was preparing to introduce reservation for Dalits, tribals and other backward classes (OBCs) in the appointment of district judges through AIJS, on the lines of the all-India administrative and police services. The move for an AIJS didn’t find favour with the higher judiciary in the past.
“Debates, discussions and dialogues are part of democracy … We (government) cannot contribute much. Our contribution will not help much. It is those sitting here who can contribute,” he said an audience judges and lawyers at the Delhi HC’s golden jubilee function.
Introduction of quota system in a section of the lower judiciary is part of his government’s move to constitute AIJS to appoint district judges, a prerogative of high courts.
“Can Dalits, the oppressed, the exploited, the poor, the neglected … those coming from the lowest strata of society be given an opportunity to become a part of this system? Can we evolve a new system in which they can be included?” he asked. “We have experience of 50 years. Using this experience, can we develop a roadmap? We have to collectively find the road ahead.”
There is no reservation for any social groups in high courts and the Supreme Court, though the collegiums try to give representation to various regions and communities in the appointment of judges.
The move could have political implications in states, including UP and Punjab, where polls are due next year. Dalits and backward castes form a sizeable chunk of the electorate in these states.
After Modi’s cabinet clears the proposal, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) will be entrusted with the AIJS examinations, sources said. The Delhi HC asked the government in July to decide on creating the AIJS.
In November 2014, the Patna high court struck down a Bihar government notification that sought to provide reservation for scheduled castes and tribes (SC and ST) and other backward castes in the appointment of lower court judges.
The SC too had rejected a similar plea by a district-level judge from Uttarakhand, who demanded a direction to the high court to reserve seats for SC and ST judges.
During discussions on judicial appointments in Parliament last May, many parties, including the Congress and the BSP, demanded reservation in the higher judiciary.
The chief justices’ conferences in 1961, 1963 and 1965 favoured creation of an AIJS, but the proposal had to be shelved after some states and high courts opposed it.
Subsequently, the Constitution was amended in 1977 to provide for an AIJS. The proposal was again floated by the UPA government in 2012 when it got it vetted by a committee of secretaries and prepared a cabinet note. But the draft bill was shelved after opposition from high court chief justices.