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All India Judicial Services (AIJS)

  • Context (IE): President Murmu called for an “all-India judicial service (AIJS)” to recruit judges.

Present System of Recruitment of Judges in Lower Judiciary

  • Under Article 233, all judges of the lower judiciary up to the level of district judges are selected through the state judicial services exam.
  • The State Public Service Commissions (SPSC) and the concerned High Court conduct the selection process, since HCs exercise jurisdiction over the subordinate judiciary in the state.
  • Panels of HC judges interview candidates after the exam (by SPSC) & select them for appointment.
  • District judges are appointed by the State Governor in consultation with the High Court.
    • Under Article 234, the Governor appoints persons (except district judges) in a State’s judicial service following rules created by them (state), consulting the SPSC and the relevant High Court.

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Integrated judicial system

  • Integrated judicial system means that decisions made by higher courts are binding on the lower courts.
  • All the lower courts from the Gram Panchayat to the High Courts are integrated into the Supreme Court of India.
  • At the top there is the Supreme Court. Below it, there are high courts at the state level.

Drawbacks in Current system

  • Urgent need to fill up the vacancies: In India there are about 21 judges per 10 lakh population even though the Law Commission had recommended that it should be at least 50.
    • In US or the UK judges to population ratio is 107 and 51 judges per million people, respectively.
  • Huge pendency of cases & delayed justice.
  • Subjectivity, corruption and nepotism in appointment.

What is AIJS?

  • All India Judicial Service (AIJS) is a proposed judicial service in India.

Purpose

  • To centralise the appointment of district judges for all states and additional district judges at the lower level of the judiciary.
  • Proposing centralisation of recruitment of lower judiciary judges akin to UPSC, followed by their allocation to states.

Posts for which AIJS will be created

  • Article 312 (2) of the IC states that the AIJS cannot include any post inferior to that of a district judge, as defined in Article 236.

Article 236

  • The expression “district judge” includes
    • Judge of a city civil court,
    • Additional district judge,
    • Joint district judge,
    • Assistant district judge,
    • Chief judge of a small cause court,
    • Chief presidency magistrate,
    • Additional chief presidency magistrate,
    • Sessions judge,
    • Additional sessions judge and
    • Assistant sessions judge;

Procedure for creation of AIJS

  • No constitutional amendment will be required for the establishment of AIJS.
    • The 42nd Constitutional amendment in 1976 amended Article 312 (1) empowering Parliament to make laws for the creation of one or more All-India Services, including an AIJS, common to the Union and the States.
  • If the Rajya Sabha declares through a resolution, supported by at least two-thirds of its present and voting members (absolute majority), it is necessary or expedient to create a service in the “national interest.”
  • Article 312 (3) states that the AIJS cannot include any post inferior to that of a district judge, as defined in Article 236.

How is AIJS different from the Present System?

The Present System Proposed AIJS
Governor is the appointing authority. Central government will be the appointing authority.
State judiciary exams are conducted for every state & judges are posted in the respective states. All India level exam will be conducted & State cadres will be allocated by the central government.

Need for AIJS

Huge vacancy of judges and delay in recruitment

  • The 116th report (1986) of the Law Commission had recommended that India should have 50 judges per million population as against 10.50 judges (in 1986).
  • Currently, the figure stands at 21 judges in terms of the sanctioned strength.
  • Almost 5,000 posts remain vacant.

Pendency of cases

  • In 2023, the total number of pending cases of all types and at all levels rose above 5 crores.
  • National Court Management Systems projected that the number of cases being filed would reach 15 crore in 30 years, requiring 75,000 judges.

Efficient Judiciary

  • It will ensure an efficient subordinate judiciary, to address structural issues such as
    • Varying pay,
    • Remuneration across states,
    • To fill vacancies faster, and
    • To ensure standard training across states.

Others

  • Addressing subjectivity, corruption and Nepotism: The bottoms-up approach in the recruitment would also address issues like corruption and nepotism in the lower judiciary.
  • State of art Training institutions: State institutes lack the capacity to allow such adjudication exposure to the selected candidates.

Merits of AIJS

  • Accountability, transparency and objectivity in recruitment process: Open competitive exam would reduce discretion of selection panel in the recruitment process of judiciary.
  • Representation to deprived sections: AIJS will improve the judiciary’s representative character by drafting in trained officers from deprived sections of society, especially women and SC/STs.
  • Reduced Regional Bias: A national pool of judges could help mitigate regional biases in judicial decisions, promoting a more equitable and impartial justice system.
  • Promoting National Integration: The AIJS could foster a sense of national unity and integration by bringing together judges from diverse backgrounds and regions.
  • Improved Public Perception: A more diverse, merit-based, and efficient judiciary could enhance public trust and confidence in the Indian justice system.

De-merits & challenges of AIJS

  • Dilutes separation of power: AIJS creation diminishes separation of power by granting Union government control over state judiciary recruitment, side-lining High Court authority.
  • Against India’s Federal structure: Centralized recruitment undermines India’s federal structure, encroaching on states’ constitutional powers and contradicting principles of federalism.
  • Impedes upon independence of judiciary: It would compromise Judicial Independence since another body would control appointments and integration, whereas in the judiciary, higher levels oversee and assess lower levels.
  • Lack of consensus: Opinions on the proposal lack consensus, with only two High Courts supporting it and 13 opposing. Additionally, there are differences in views regarding eligibility, age, selection criteria, qualifications, and reservation.
  • Opposition from advocate lobby: AIJS judges are more likely to become High Court judges compared to High Court advocates, causing opposition from advocate groups in various High Courts.
  • Exclusion of state minorities and backward groups: State minorities and backward groups stand to lose reservation benefits if reservations are determined based on a centralized list.
    • Some communities which fall under the backward category in the state list may fall under the general category in the central list.
  • Local Language issue: AIJS officers may struggle with local languages used in courts up to the District and Sessions Judge level, impeding effective dispensation of justice.
  • Local laws and customs problem: AIJS overlooks the significant diversity in local laws, practices, and customs among different States.

Recommendations on AIJS

Law Commission and other recommendation

  • The notion of a centralized judicial service was initially discussed in the Law Commission’s 1958 report on Judicial Administration Reforms.
  • This idea resurfaced in the 1978 Law Commission Report, addressing case delays and backlogs in lower courts.
  • In 2006, the 15th Report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law, and Justice endorsed the concept of a nationwide judicial service and formulated a draft bill.

Supreme Court on AIJS

  • In 1992, the Supreme Court’s ruling in ‘All India Judges’ Association (1) v. UOI’ directed the Centre to establish an AIJS.
  • A 1993 review of the judgment allowed the Centre freedom to initiate action on the matter.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court independently addressed the appointment of district judges and suggested a “Central Selection Mechanism.”

Way forward

  • Achieving stakeholder consensus is crucial.
  • AIJS must address its flaws to become a potent judicial solution.
  • NITI Aayog recommends:
    • AIJS cadre reporting to High Court Chief Justices for judicial independence.
    • Conducting regular, time-bound AIJS examinations.
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