Treating a letter dated April 28, 2017, written by the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice (Government of India), to the Supreme Court of India seeking the Supreme Court’s directions to streamline and standardise the process of appointments to the subordinate judiciary in India as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL),
the apex court while keeping in mind the critical need for filling up vacancies in the subordinate judiciary has released a concept paper suggesting a method for establishing a centralised selection mechanism for the appointment of subordinate courts’ judges. In fact, this idea has already been agreed in principle by most High Courts, through a resolution passed on April 22, 2017.
The sanctioned strength of district and subordinate judges in India is approximately 21,000 today. Of these, approximately 4,800 positions are vacant.
While the exact numbers are not available, it can be assumed that 25 per cent of these are district judges, of which 25 per cent are to be recruited through direct recruitment/examination, as per All India Judges Association & Ors. v. UOI & Ors. [(2010) 15 SCC 170]. This means that on an annual basis, there are likely to be approximately 300 vacancies that need to be filled each year, the concept paper says.
Taking a clue from recruitment to the Central Civil Services which are able to attract highly capable individuals each year, the concept paper hopes to put in place a consistent and rigorous selection process. Further, as the syllabus and other selection criteria are known in advance, which allows aspiring candidates to plan and prepare for the examination.
These factors would incentivise a large number of candidates to take the examination, of which the best eventually make the grade and qualify as judges in the district courts or other subordinate courts. The larger the pool of aspiring candidates, the higher the probability of getting the top candidates for State Judicial Services.
The concept paper further adds that the fixed timetable of holding such examinations will enable an advocate who is unsuccessful in a given year, to try harder and make further attempts in a planned manner for the subsequent years. The main reason for setting up a CSM is to provide a regular pool of meritorious candidates to recruitment and selection bodies for State Judicial Services across India.
It is indeed distressing that several vacancies for district judges are not filled due to the lack of qualified and meritorious advocates. This is perhaps due to the absence of a regular/periodic examination system. In most States, the examinations are held on an ad hoc basis. There is no syllabus to enable candidates to prepare in advance.
The uncertainty and irregularity is what the District Judges Recruitment Examination (DJURE) aims to eradicate. Under the CSM, such candidates would be able to write a single common examination, namely the DJURE, and be considered for selection in all the States for which they fulfil the eligibility criteria.
The concept paper, however, clarifies that there would be no effect on the existing structure of the judiciary. The proposed DJURE as a CSM will not, in any way, impinge upon the powers of each High Court under Article 233 of the Constitution. The CSM does not, in any manner, amend, alter, or abridge any of the rules that currently prevail in the High Courts, while recruiting district judges. This has been made abundantly clear by the order of the Supreme Court dated July 10, 2017.
Further, it is clarified that the proposed DJURE would not compromise the autonomy of the States in regulating the terms of recruitment or the conditions of service. This is what distinguishes the DJURE from an All India Judicial Service. All existing rules regarding reservation, eligibility and service conditions in the States would continue to be in force.
The proposed mechanism only seeks to centralise the preparation of the merit list which is based on the performance of a candidate in a written examination. The rules/regulations for reservation for persons from Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/ Other Backward Castes, etc., will continue as they currently exist. The DJURE will not alter this in any way.
According to the concept paper the structure of the DJURE will be split into four papers, namely Law I, Law II, Law III, and Law IV. a. Law I will be a paper on civil law and allied subjects (Code of Civil Procedure, 1908; Indian Contract Act, 1872; Specific Relief Act, 1963; Sale of Goods Act, 1930;
and Family laws) for 100 marks; b. Law II will be a paper on criminal law and allied subjects (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; Indian Penal Code, 1860; Indian Evidence Act, 1872; Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005) for 100 marks; c. Law III will be a paper on miscellaneous subjects from both civil and criminal laws, namely Transfer of Property Act, 1882; Indian Easements Act, 1882;
Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996; Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, for 100 marks; and d. Law IV will be a paper on local laws, customs and practices, and local languages for 100 marks. e. Interview: 200 marks. The question papers of the written examinations, namely Law I, II, III, and IV, may be conducted either in a conventional essay-type question and answer format, or preferably, in a multiple choice question (MCQ) format. In the latter case, answers can be provided in an optical mark recognition (OMR) sheet.
This will ensure a faster evaluation process, and allow for a quicker declaration of results. However, if an MCQ question paper method is adopted, it must be ensured that the question papers are meticulously prepared, with only one correct option for every question, to avoid any confusion thereafter.