The vision document titled ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’, released by the NITI Aayog, amongst other things, proposes a spate of judicial reforms. The think-tank has come out batting for the creation of an All India Judicial Service, akin to the other central services like the IAS and the IPS.
- The proposal for an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) in lines of All-India Services was proposed as early as 1950.
- The idea was first mooted by the Law Commission in the 1950sto have an All-India Judicial Services.
- The Constitution of India was amended in 1977to provide for an All-India Judicial Services under Article 312.
- The Chief Justices conferences in 1961, 1963, and 1965 favoured creation of All-India Judicial Services and even the Law Commissions (1st, 8th and 11th, 116th) had suggested the creation of the service. However, each time it was faced with opposition.
- The proposal was again floated by the ruling UPA government in 2012 but the draft bill was done away with after opposition from High Court Chief Justices who labelled this an infringement of their rights.
- There is a huge shortage of judges in the country. According to latest statistics, there is a shortfall of at least 5,111 judicial officers in district courts of the country. These courts have only 16,192 judges as against its sanctioned strength of 21,303 judicial officers.
- Nearly three crore cases are pending in courts across the country. But all this doesn’t mean that there aren’t enough judges or enough applicants.
- If AIJS is implemented, it will allow a huge number of judges to fill those vacancies through an all-India test. Applicants, on being selected through AIJS, could be posted in states where more judges are needed.
- “There are many cases where serving judges are sons or daughters of former judges. AIJS will break this nexus. It will give you quality judges, who are experienced and have studied all sorts of cases.
- If judges from north India were to be transferred to the south, for instance, they wouldn’t be able to understand the language and hence conduct proceedings properly.
- The judge needs to have an absolutely clear understanding of the local language to conduct a trial fairly.
- Learning a language isn’t difficult. Need to make it compulsory for new judges to learn the language. Provide them with training. Besides, a good exposure for judges is also necessary. With the way things are, one cannot expect to become a High Court judge, leave aside Supreme Court, without having any influence. However, this may cost extra burden on commission.
- Age bar is another matter of concern. If we compare AIJS to civil services, where recruits begin working from 21, do we want 21, 22-year-old judges in courtrooms? And how do we conceive the transition from the existing setup? We cannot suddenly decide to shift to an altogether new system of appointments.
- A fresh round of debate on the AIJS has just begun. One can expect to see sparks flying, as one saw during the debate between the judiciary and legislature in Collegium versus National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
- However, all the parameters and drawbacks have to be analyzed before switching to AIJS as the judiciary holds immense respect in the eyes of people for delivering fair and unbiased judgement.