NEET-like national entrance exam proposed to recruit judges for lower courts
The suggestion was mentioned in a letter written by the secretary (Justice) in the law ministry to the secretary general, Supreme Court. The letter has since been sent to the states for their views.
Unable to implement the plan for an all-India judicial service for lower courts in the country, the Centre has now suggested to the Supreme Court an examination on the lines of the National-Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical courses to select judicial officers at that level.
Currently, nearly 5000 posts of judicial officers are vacant – nearly a fourth of the total 21000 positions – in the subordinate judiciary. Many of those who are recruited as magistrates go on to serve in high courts.
There have been concerns over the quality of judicial officers in the district courts as well as about the lack of uniformity in their recruitment. The Centre has absolutely no say in these recruitments which are made by the state services commissions and the 24 high courts.
“Adoption of the model followed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for conducting the for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses could also be explored,” law ministry secretary (justice) Snehalata Srivastava recently wrote to the Supreme Court.
“As per the process followed by NEET, the CBSE is responsible for conducting the entrance test, declaration of result and preparation of an all-India rank,” Srivastava wrote to the secretary general, SC.
Among the other suggestions in the communication, the government has proposed that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) hold the entrance test. The commission conducts the recruitment exams for the all India services for the bureaucracy as well as for the military academies.
The SC had set up a committee of judges in January to bring about uniformity in the process of recruitment of judges to lower courts. On April 8, government and the judiciary representatives held a meeting on the issue. The meeting was chaired by Justice Adarsh Goel, who heads the Arrears Committee, in which alternative methods of recruitment were discussed.
Seven states, including BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh, have opposed the formation of an all-India judicial service either in totality or in the form proposed by the centre.
The all-India judicial service plan was first proposed in the 1960s but has been left hanging due to lack of convergence between the states, the Centre and the higher judiciary.
The Centre has used the issue vacancies in the lower judiciary to point out that the current system of recruitment is lacking and needs reform.
Law ministry sources point out that a bulk of the pending three crore cases in the country is in the lower courts. “Poorer litigants are directly affected by this pendency, it is necessary to fill these vacancies at the earliest,” a top official remarked. The letter has been sent to the states for their response, sources said.