As we step forward in an ever-developing epoch of judicial reforms and dynamic law amendments, we have seen various increments of incentives in the Indian Judicial system like the recent approval and implementation of the 2nd National Judicial Pay Commission all over India which increases the basic pay and dearness allowances at all subordinate levels of courts. But such reforms take years to be enabled after years of consideration which is far less compared to the alterations in demands and the economy.
In a similar approach, there was a recent consideration for AIJS (All India Judicial Services) Exam that would be taken just like UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) for various civil service recruitments like IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, etc. The exam is proposed to be conducted at the central level (the proposal is for UPSC to conduct the same) for the entire India to recruit law graduates at the apex levels of the subordinate judiciary – Additional District Judge (ADJ) and District Judge (DJ). The chosen candidates will have to pass an interview based on their merit list and after final selection will proceed with active judicial training under eminent High Court Judges and get pragmatic exposure to courtship.
AIJS has been a fairly ancient proposal during the early years of India’s Republic phase. It was proposed in 1958 (14th Report). The Supreme Court of India in its landmark case of 1992 – “All India Judges’ Association vs. Union of India & Ors.” stood in the favour of the existing Bill at the time and left it at the discretion of the Central Government whether to introduce it or not. But realizing the delay of the Centre’s judgement, the Supreme Court of India took suo moto cognizance in 2017 under the then CJI Khehar for a standardized mechanism for the appointment.
The current Union Minister of Law & Justice, Shri Kiren Rijiju had pushed forward for such judicial reforms like AIJS to strengthen the Bench and aims to re-initiate the process of taking a consensus of all High Courts since the proposal of the previous decade couldn’t cross the primal barricade of Consensus among the various High Courts of India, 2 States approved as against 13 who rejected, while some want either alteration in the existing Draft or haven’t responded.
There is just a mention of AIJS in Article 312 of the Indian Constitution which talks about the implementation. As of now, the appointment of judges is done by PCS-J (Provincial Civil Service-Judicial) Exam for fresh law graduates at the subordinate level of Judiciary like JMSC (Judicial Magistrate Second Class), Civil Judge, “Munsiffs”, etc., and HJS (Higher Judicial Services) Exam for experienced Law Graduates for posts like CJM (Chief Judicial Magistrate). They are like SPSC (State Public Service Commission) which conducts exams in the spectrum of their respective states only and anyone all over India can compete for various posts. The ones appointed by these exams have to be meritorious and gain experience to be promoted to higher levels. Some states like Delhi have special exams, LDCE (Limited Departmental Competitive Exam) for lower-level judges who if they crack can be promoted to higher levels without having to wait for the recommendatory year experience factor. There is no such exam for direct promotion to higher levels like ADJ, DJ, and HC which are chosen by the Collegium Systems of the respective State’s HC while SC is by SC’s Collegium System but they are rare.
Due to discrepancies in judicial systems, there is a wide range of diversity in promotions, appointments, salaries, benefits, allowances, pensions, etc. across the States. The elevation to High Court is rare as one climbs the ranks after years and hits retirement by the time they are appointed as a District Judge. By far only 2 judges from the subordinate level have made it to the coveted position of Chief Justice of India (CJI). On the other hand, there has been a humongous number of direct appointments of lawyers to the HC Bench at relative ages, making it to the post of SC judge. This has led to a realization of the need for AIJS in the Law Ministry.
WHY THERE IS A NEED FOR IMPLEMENTATION?
The Indian Judiciary is groaning in pain under the tremendous pressure. The biggest contributor to this pendency is the ground level aka Subordinate Judiciary which has more than 40 million cases pending. There are many reasons for this percentage of pendency which includes a lack of Judicial Magistrates with competency. The huge crater of vacancies arises due to a lack of competent candidates and most fail to clear the cut-offs at different stages of the exam. This matter can be healed by a Central level exam that can lure candidates from all over India and help to select the best candidates successfully fill the vacancies.
The recent trends show a shift of interest among fresh law graduates from conventional litigation and judiciary careers to corporate law firm jobs which offer better career progression, pay and security. Additionally, due to the lack of merit-based promotions, experience-based has weakened the interests of those lawyers who have high ambitions as it takes forever to become a DJ, and it is very rare to reach Constitutional Courts this way. AIJS by its nature makes career progression more lucrative and thus can prove instrumental and attract the best law graduates to pursue a career in the judiciary.
The introduction of AIJS will result in unity among otherwise discrete judicial policies of various states which is another need of the hour. Moreover, AIJS deals with District Judge appointments it will be in a symbiosis with PCS-J and HJS Exams which deal with lower posts.
There are many hurdles in the execution of the idea of AIJS itself. The major one is the diversity of languages since India is a conglomerate of various cultures and languages which may be foreign to a posted Judicial Officer. Also, Judges need to hear and interpret every word in the Court to make a sound judgement which may be extremely difficult for any non-speaker, compared to a posted IAS whose task is primarily to manage the state of affairs and not people themselves.
Another issue with AIJS may strengthen the upper subordinate judiciary but it will make the lower posts more stagnant as people will neglect PCS-J and HJS exams and it may account for a loss of candidature for them.
The reforms that AIJS promises to bring may be too utopian. The Subordinate Judiciary has proven to be the weakest point of the 3rd Pillar of Indian Democracy which needs urgent attention. The fundamental rationale of AIJS is to fill the vacancies and ameliorate the situation of pendency of cases by making appointments lucrative and opportunistic. Various forms of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) might have taken the front stage to reach a consensus, but the judiciary remains irreplaceable as it can only adjudicate proper criminal cases and their decisions can only be appealed but not disputed. AIJS has many roadblocks to its execution but they can be amended – the language barrier can be removed by a preliminary language test based on State choices and passing them with flying colours to be a requisite to be eligible for appointment or transfers among their districts.
For now, the proposed Draft of AIJS is in process of consideration by the Union Ministry of Law & Justice. The road ahead is getting clearance and we may expect a green flag.
Author(s) Name : Shub Kartik Goenka