[Editorial Analysis] Lower judiciary and centralised recruitment debate

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: All India Judicial Services
Mains level: Judicial reforms

Context:

• The AIJS is a reform initiative that seeks to centralize the recruitment of judges at all levels, including more district judges and district judges for all states.

• Judges of the lower judiciary are planned to be recruited centrally and assigned to states, similar to how the Union Public Service Commission performs a central recruiting procedure and allocates successful applicants to cadres.

How are district judges currently recruited?

• Articles 233 and 234 of the Constitution of India deal with the appointment of district judges, and place it in the domain of the states.

• The selection process is conducted by the State Public Service Commissions and the concerned High Court, since High Courts exercise jurisdiction over the subordinate judiciary in the state. Panels of High Court judges interview candidates after the exam and select them for appointment.

• All judges of the lower judiciary up to the level of district judge are selected through the Provincial Civil Services (Judicial) exam. PCS(J) is commonly referred to as the judicial services exam.

Why has the AIJS been proposed?

• The idea of a centralised judicial service was first mooted in the Law Commission’s 1958 ‘Report on Reforms on Judicial Administration’.

• The idea was to ensure an efficient subordinate judiciary, to address structural issues such as varying pay and remuneration across states, to fill vacancies faster, and to ensure standard training across states.

• A statutory or constitutional body such as the UPSC to conduct a standard, centralised exam to recruit and train judges was discussed.

• The idea was proposed again in the Law Commission Report of 1978, which discussed delays and arrears of cases in the lower courts.

• In 2006, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 15th Report backed the idea of a pan-Indian judicial service, and also prepared a draft Bill.

How AIJS helps lower judiciary

• Efficient Judiciary: It will ensure an efficient subordinate judiciary, addressing structural concerns such as disparities in pay and remuneration among states, filling vacancies more quickly, and ensuring uniform training throughout states.

• Ease of Doing Business: In order to enhance India’s Ease of Doing Business score, the government has focused on reforming the lower judiciary, as effective dispute settlement is one of the primary indicators used to determine the ranking.

• Judges to Population Ratio: According to a 1987 Law Commission report, India should have 50 judges per million people, compared to 10.50 (back in 1987). In terms of sanctioned strength, the figure has already surpassed 20 judges, but it’s still nothing compared to the US or the UK, which have 107 and 51 judges per million population, respectively. The AIJS, according to the government, is a great answer for equal representation of marginalized and underprivileged elements of society.

• Attracting a Talent Pool: The government feels that if such a service is established, it will assist in the creation of a pool of brilliant individuals who could eventually join the higher judiciary.

• Bottom-Up Approach: In the lower judiciary, a bottom-up approach to recruiting would address concerns such as corruption and nepotism.

Issues AIJS cant solve:

• Will Not Solve Unique Issues: Several states have complained that central recruitment will not be able to address the unique challenges that each state may have. States have raised issues about language and representation, for example. Regional languages are used in judicial proceedings, which could be harmed by central recruiting.

• AIJS Will Not Address Structural Issues: The establishment of AIJS will not address the structural problems that plague the inferior courts. In the 1993 All India Judges Association case, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of varied pay and payment rates by ensuring uniformity across states. Experts argue that increasing pay across the board and ensuring that a fraction of High Court judges are picked from the lower judiciary, may help better than a central exam to attract quality talent.

Way forward:

• The overwhelming amount of pending cases necessitates the construction of a system that recruits efficient judges in large numbers in order to expedite case resolution.

• However, before the AIJS is included into the legislative framework, agreement must be established and a definite move toward the AIJS must be taken.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Which of the following rules is/are notified by the Ministry of Power under Electricity Act, 2003?

1. Electricity (Timely recovery of costs due to Change in Law) Rules, 2021.

2. Electricity (Promotion of generation from renewable sources of energy by addressing Must Run and other matters) Rules, 2021.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

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