NITI Aayog pitched for a pan-India examination to select cadre for the lower judiciary to attract young law graduates and enhance accountability in the governance system. On Wednesday, NITI Aayog came out with a national strategy for new India, which defined the objectives for 2022-23. “An all-India judicial services examination on a ranking basis can be considered to maintain high standards in the judiciary. The selection process may be entrusted to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for a cadre of lower judiciary judges, Indian Legal Service (both centre and states), prosecutors, legal advisors, and legal draftsmen,” a NITI Aayog report said.
The report claimed that the move will attract young and bright law graduates and help build a new cadre “that can enhance accountability in the governance system”. The report also suggested the introduction of an administrative cadre in the judicial system to streamline processes. A performance index for judges should be considered and a separate statewise index for “ease of getting justice” should be prepared, it said.
“To maintain judicial independence, the cadre should report to the Chief Justice in each High Court,” it said. There are 24 high courts in the country.
It said there is a need to facilitate the availability and usage of video-conferencing facilities to assist in speedy access to justice and to minimise logistical issues. “At present, even the available video-conferencing facilities are not utilized optimally,” it said.
The government has in the past proposed an all-India judicial service. But nine high courts have opposed the proposal to have an all-India service for the lower judiciary. Eight others have sought changes in the proposed framework and only two have supported the idea.
The Centre 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 the country. The idea was first mooted in the 1960s. 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. National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is conducted for admission to medical colleges.
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. At present, various high courts and state service commissions hold exams to recruit judicial officers.