Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

All India Judicial Service (AIJS): The centralised recruitment debate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Articles 233 and 234

Mains level : All India Judicial Services

The central government is preparing to give a fresh push to the establishment of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) on the lines of the central civil services.

All India Judicial Service (AIJS)

  • The AIJS is a reform push to centralize the recruitment of judges.
  • It would work at the level of additional district judges and district judges for all states.
  • In the same way that the UPSC conducts a central recruitment process and assigns successful candidates to cadres, judges of the lower judiciary are proposed to be recruited centrally and assigned to states.
  • This idea has been debated in legal circles for decades, and remains contentious.

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 an appointment.
  • All judges of the lower judiciary up to the level of district judge are selected through the Provincial Civil Services (Judicial) exam.

Why has the AIJS been proposed?

The idea was to ensure:

  • Efficient subordinate judiciary
  • Address structural issues such as varying pay and remuneration across states
  • Fill vacancies faster
  • Ensure standard training across states

Beginning of the debate

  • The idea of a centralized judicial service was first proposed in the Law Commission 1958 ‘Report on Reforms on Judicial Administration’.
  • It 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 backed the idea of a pan-Indian judicial service, and also prepared a draft Bill.

What is the judiciary’s view on the AIJS?

  • 1992: the Supreme Court directed the Centre to set up an AIJS in All India Judges’ Assn. vs Union of India
  • 1993: In review of the judgment, the court left the Centre at liberty to take the initiative on the issue.
  • 2017: The Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the issue of appointment of district judges, and mooted a “Central Selection Mechanism”.

What is the opposition to the AIJS?

  • Blow to federalism: AJIS is seen as an affront to federalism and an encroachment on the powers of states granted by the Constitution.
  • Language of Business: Language and representation, for example, are key concerns highlighted by states. Judicial business is conducted in regional languages, whi ch could be affected by central recruitment.
  • Quotas: Also, reservations based on caste, and even for rural candidates or linguistic minorities in the state, could be diluted in a central test, it has been argued.
  • Separation of power: The opposition is also based on the constitutional concept of the separation of powers.
  • Not a complete remedy: Additionally, legal experts have argued that the creation of AIJS will not address the structural issues plaguing the lower judiciary.

Why is the government seeking to revive the idea of AIJS?

  • The government has targeted the reform of the lower judiciary in its effort to improve India’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.
  • It will act as efficient dispute resolution is one of the key indices in determining the rank.
  • AIJS is a step in the direction of ensuring an efficient lower judiciary.

Centre’s argument for AJIS

  • The government has cited IAS officers’ examples.
  • It has argued that if a central mechanism can work for administrative services — IAS officers learn the language required for their cadre — it can work for judicial services too.


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