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The anticipated All India Judicial Services (AIJS) has made burning headlines in the country. The centre seems extremely desirous of coming up with a centralized mechanism for the Indian judiciary as it has been functioning in fragments since the Constitution of India was put into pieces. Since the beginning of the year 2020, the formation of the draft bill for the AIJS has been in full swing. However, before formally introducing this bill in the Parliament, the Indian judiciary and the High Courts also need to give their consent to the bill being made.
Background and significance of this development:
The idea of coming up with the AIJS is not at all a newly devised plan. Back in the year 1958, when the 14th Law Commission Report mooted for it, it had put in a recommendation for the same. This ultimately led to the insertion of Article 312 via the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in the year 1976 which laid down how the AIJS can be set up through initiation by the Parliament of India. These services too would be framed on the lines of Indian Administrative Services and Indian Police Services as per the Article.
The reason behind this entire proposal is to take the Indian judiciary to newer heights. As of now, all the 25 High Courts in the country have exclusive powers on the lower judiciary in their respective States, which has led to a very cumbersome appointment procedure. It has also been noticed that a lot many times, there remain unfathomable amounts of vacancies in the lower judiciary levels, leading to inefficiency and incompetency. However, almost 9 Courts have rejected this proposal while 8 others demand their specific changes to be made in the same.
Salient Features of the Bill:
The bill seeks to recruit officers in the lower levels of judiciary through a pan-India entrance test. This can be juxtaposed with the All India Services Examinations which take place annually in the country where a pool of talented individuals is created by testing their logic, general knowledge and sharpness. In a similar fashion, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) would hold standardized exams for appointment of judges in subordinate courts of India. It also seeks to set up a Committee to keep a check on the same. In addition to this, obviously, the setting up of AIJS would lead to speedy justice as one of the main features of the bill is to increase the overall number of judges appointed in courts, instead of burdening the repeated judges with a mound of cases. An extremely crucial point is also to provide representation to the marginalized groups of talented individuals in the judiciary. Thus, this makes this bill a concrete step towards betterment of the legal framework of India.
Just like any other bill proposed in the Parliament, the draft bill for AIJS also comes with a set of its own hills and valleys. Looking at the bright side, the bill seeks to integrate the Indian judiciary by selecting talented, young individuals in the same manner the All India Services choose their candidates. This will lead to state politics reducing, off-chart corrupt practices going down and equal opportunity creation. Since the judiciary lacks representation from the backward castes in India, even now, this could be a chance to provide adequate representation to the marginalized groups too. More appointments would mean more judges handling more cases, leading to a non-burdened judicial mechanism. On top of that, in totality, it would lead to national integration as well since judges would be appointed irrespective of their domiciles and overcome their lingual partiality just like any other central government officer (IAS, IPS, IFS etc). This would also prove to be a boon to those aspiring judges who have had to move a lot as children and do not have proper domicile certificates.
On the other hand, this would lead to a prima facie violation of the federal model of the Indian government since more and more bodies would now be under the direct authority of the centre, with the states losing their grip over the subordinate courts. Another very evident problem would be posed by the judges who would not be accustomed with the local language of these areas causing inefficiency in justice. On top of that, once this judicial system is centralized, the Constitution would have to undergo severe amendments from Articles 233-237.
If the entire situation is put under a microscope, it can be very well noticed that advantages do outweigh the disadvantages; however, the latter cannot be ignored. The State governments and the judiciary need to be in consensus with the centre in order to execute this humungous change in the judicial system of the country, or else, this bill even though hopeful of great changes would remain useless. The government has to take inputs from the High Courts in order to make this bill better and its goal more attainable. This shall lead to the quasi-federal model of India remain intact, with all the machineries of the country satisfied. On top of that, the government cannot run away from providing adequate manpower and infrastructural facilities for the execution of the same.
Probable way forward:
In totality, the only manner in which this bill can be thoroughly drafted and passed is mutual understanding. Since the appointment of judges would take place on the basis on centralized cadre system, the examiners for these tests could also have senior judges and judicial officers from the respective states. This way, the decision making procedure would include opinions from the centre as well as the states. Unless and until a joint decision is not reached, this bill would never attain the goal it was made to.
It would be fair to say that the government has been trying really hard to improvise the manner in which the judicial system of the country has been functioning, for good. The files and cases which have been lost in the enormous piles of papers have led to immense dissatisfaction amongst the Indian public and justice has suffered irrecoverable loss. If the AIJS bill is modified well as per the recommendations of various states and executed with the motive of doing good to the judiciary, it can most definitely prove to be one of the most successful ideas in the country. However, if things go south, it can prove to be one of the gravest violations of federalism in the country since even Dr. Ambedkar said “When diversity created by division of authority in a dual polity goes beyond a certain point, it is capable of producing chaos.”
Author: Shubhani D Krishan from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.