“Such a system can offer opportunities to the less-represented social groups too. I leave it to your wisdom to devise any effective mechanism that you deem fit to achieve this objective of strengthening the justice delivery system,” President Droupadi Murmu said in the presence of the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Union law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
SPEAKING at the Constitution Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court of India, the President of India on Sunday stressed the need to have an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) to select brilliant youngsters and nurture and promote their talent.
President Droupadi Murmu added that those who aspire to serve the Bench can be selected from across the country to create a larger pool of talent.
“Such a system can offer opportunities to the less-represented social groups too. I leave it to your wisdom to devise any effective mechanism that you deem fit to achieve this objective of strengthening the justice delivery system,” Murmu said in the presence of the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Union law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.
Speaking of diversity, the president said the offices of the President, the Prime Minister, and the speaker of Lok Sabha, among others, have been held by women. Though their numerical strength in legislative bodies was lesser, the long-awaited Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam will correct this shortcoming.
“In the bureaucracy, armed forces as well as scientific and technological research institutions, women’s representation has been rising. This is true not only for women but also for other socially disadvantaged groups including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
“While the place of the judiciary in the constitutional framework remains rather unique, I am confident that this institution too has been welcoming diversity with open arms. More varied representation of India’s unique diversity on Bench and Bar definitely helps serve the cause of justice better,” she said.
The President’s suggestion to introduce an AIJS is likely to revive the debate for a centralised examination to recruit judges at the level of the district judiciary.
The suggestion has come even as the Union government last year decided to shelve the proposal to bring in an AIJS, which was aimed at the induction of suitably qualified fresh legal talent selected through a proper all-India merit selection system.
The then Union law minister Kiren Rijiju had informed Lok Sabha that there was a lack of consensus on an AIJS among different high courts and state governments.
“A comprehensive proposal was formulated for the constitution of an AIJS and the same was approved by the committee of secretaries in November 2012. Besides attracting some of the best talent in the country, it may also facilitate the inclusion of competent persons from marginalised sections and women in the judiciary.
“The proposal was included as an agenda item in the conference of chief ministers and chief justices of the high courts held in April 2013 and it was decided that the issue needs further deliberation and consideration,” the Minister had said.
Rijiju had added that the views of the state governments and high courts were sought on the proposal. There was a divergence of opinion among them on the constitution of an AIJS.
While some state governments and high courts favoured the proposal, others were in opposition to the creation of an AIJS while still others wanted changes in the proposal formulated by the Union government.
When the law minister responded to a similar question in the Parliament in December last year, it was revealed that only two states, namely, Haryana and Mizoram, favored an AIJS while eight states— Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Punjab— opposed it. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Orissa and Uttarakhand sought changes in the proposal. A total of 13 states, namely Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Goa, Sikkim, and Tripura had not responded to the proposal.
Rijiju had said that the proposal regarding the creation of an AIJS to help recruit to the posts of district judges and review the selection process of judges and judicial officers at all levels was included in the agenda for the Chief Justices Conference, which was held on April 3–4 in 2015.
It was then resolved to leave it open to the respective high courts to evolve appropriate methods within the existing system to fill up the vacancies for the appointment of district judges expeditiously, the minister had revealed.
“The proposal of setting up an All-India Judicial Service was again discussed on points of eligibility, age, selection criteria, qualification, reservations etc., in a meeting chaired by the minister of law and justice on January 16, 2017 in the presence of minister of state for law and justice; Attorney General for India; Solicitor General of India; and secretaries of departments of justice, legal affairs and legislative.
“Setting up an AIJS was also deliberated upon in a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee in March 2017 and the Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of SCs/STs on February 22, 2021. In view of lack of consensus, at present, there is no proposal to bring an All-India Judicial Services,” the minister informed Rajya Sabha.
In 2017, a Supreme Court Bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar had pushed for a centralised selection process to fill judicial vacancies.
“The instant exercise is only for centralising the selection process, so as to make the recruitment a regular, recurring feature, which would result in filling up judicial vacancies at the earliest, through a time-bound mechanism.
“Since the process of selection is proposed to be centralised, it would, if implemented, allow a candidate to apply for more than one states, through a singular selection process,” the Bench had said while initiating suo motu proceedings to favour the centralised selection process.
However, some high courts and state governments had opposed the proposal before the Supreme Court. Their key concerns were the dilution of the federal structure, and that the proposal does not address structural issues plaguing the lower judiciary, including low pay and fewer chances of being promoted to the higher judiciary.
Presently, selection to the district and subordinate judiciary is done by state governments in consultation with the respective high courts with jurisdiction in that state.