All-India service for lower judiciary: J&K High Court yet to respond to GoI proposal

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NEW DELHI: Nine high courts have opposed a proposal to have an all-India service for lower judiciary, eight have sought changes in the proposed framework and only two have supported the idea, a union law ministry document says.

The document, sent to all members of the parliamentary consultative committee on law and justice, also states that most of the 24 high courts want control over the subordinate judiciary.

The Narendra Modi led government of India (GoI) has given a fresh push to the long-pending proposal to set up the new service to have a separate cadre for lower judiciary in India. The idea was first mooted in the 1960s.

According to the document, the high courts of Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Patna and, Punjab and Haryana “have not favoured the idea of All-India Judicial Service (AIJS)”.

It said only the high courts of Sikkim and Tripura have concurred with the proposal approved by the committee of secretaries for formation of an all-India service for lower judiciary.

The Allahabad, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Orissa and Uttarakhand high courts have suggested changes in age at induction level, qualifications, training and quota of vacancies to filled through the proposed service.

“Most of the high courts want the administrative control over the subordinate judiciary to remain with the respective high courts,” it said.

The high courts of Jharkhand and Rajasthan have indicated that the matter regarding creation of the AIJS is pending consideration, while no response has been received from the high courts of Calcutta, Jammu and Kashmir and Gauhati, the document pointed out.

Seeking to overcome the divergence of views, the government had recently suggested to the Supreme Court various options, including a NEET-like examination, to recruit judges to the lower judiciary.

There were vacancies of 4,452 judges in subordinate courts in the country as per the figures released on December 31, 2015. While the sanctioned strength is 20,502, the actual number of judges and judicial officers in subordinate courts is 16,050.

“Adoption of the model followed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for conducting the National-Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses could also be explored,” the government had told the Supreme Court.

The ministry had suggested various models to the Supreme Court so that vacancies in the subordinate courts are filled up fast.

Besides the NEET model, the law ministry had also proposed that a “centralised examination” could be held by a “recruitment body” for selection of candidates and it can work under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

It also proposed that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) can also be asked to hold an exam to recruit judicial officers. The UPSC, it said, can modify its procedures and practices in consultation with the high courts to hold the specialised test.

The Secretary (Justice) has also suggested that some of the features followed by the Institute of Banking and Personnel Selection could also be followed to recruit judges to lower courts.

At present, various high courts and state service commissions hold exams to recruit judicial officers.

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