Nine high courts oppose all-India service for lower judiciary
The Narendra Modi government has given a fresh push to the long-pending proposal to set up the new service to have a separate cadre for lower judiciary in the country. The idea was first mooted in the 1960s.Updated: Aug 06, 2017, 23:39 IST
Nine high courts have objected to a plan for a country-wide exam for recruitment to lower judiciary, a proposal that has the backing of the Supreme Court.
The government has proposed an exam on the lines of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, better known as Neet, held for medical course to select judicial officers to address concerns over the quality of junior judges and lack of uniformity in recruitment.
The high courts of Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Delhi Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Patna and Punjab and Haryana are not in favour of the idea, the law ministry recently told a parliament panel.
They want “the administrative control over the subordinate judiciary to remain with the respective high courts”, the document sent by the ministry to the consultative committee on law says.
The courts’ stand is contrary to the views of Chief Justice of India JS Khehar who said the new system would ensure quick appointment of competent judges necessary for an effective judiciary. The exam would bring uniformity in the selection process and curb nepotism and favouritism in judiciary, the top court said on Friday.
The quality is a concern as many of those recruited as magistrates go on to serve in high courts.
Around 5,000 posts are vacant in the subordinate judiciary, nearly a fourth of the total 21,320 positions.
Around 27 million cases are pending in district courts, as per National Judicial Grid Data, hobbling India’s justice delivery system. Around 10% of these cases, or around 2.4 million, are more than 10 years old.
The Centre has no say in the recruitment of judicial officers that are made by the state services commissions and the 24 high courts.
Even after the exam is introduced, there will be little change in the arrangement. A merit list of successful candidates would be drawn up and states would be allowed to appoint judges as per their rules, the Centre has said, a point also backed by the top court.
“There will be no interference in the appointment process and state would be allowed to follow their own procedure as per their rules and reservation policy,” the court said on Friday in response to reservations expressed by West Bengal government and Calcutta high court.
The Calcutta, Jammu and Kashmir and Gauhati high courts are yet to respond to the proposal. The Sikkim and Tripura high courts are in favour of the exam. Their Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Allahabad, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand and Orissa counterparts want changes in age, qualification, training and quota of vacancies to be filled through the proposed service, the ministry has told the panel.
Rajasthan and Jharkhand high courts are still considering their stand.
A bench of CJI Khehar, justice AK Goel and justice AM Khanwilkar told the counsel appearing for states and HCs that it had decided in principle to introduce a common test.
It asked senior advocate Arvind Datar – assisting the court in the case – to submit his concept note to the states for them to send in their response.
A centralised system would attract talent and incentivise eligible candidates to opt for judicial services, Datar said.
The bench said the reservation of states about were “an ill-founded concern”.
“No foreign investors would invest in the country if judiciary is not efficient. We must put our best foot forward,” the bench said.
The court began hearing the case in April after the law secretary wrote a letter to the registrar general, highlighting the need to fill the vacancies in lower judiciary.