A solution in search of a problem

Last week, in its report, ‘Strategy for New India@75’, the NITI Aayog mooted the creation of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) for making appointments to the lower judiciary through an all India judicial services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in order to maintain “high standards” in the judiciary. Similar proposals were made by the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on three different occasions this year as a solution to the problems of vacancies in the lower judiciary and a lack of representation in the judiciary from marginalised communities. This last argument appears to have caught the attention of Dalit leaders such as Ram Vilas Paswan, a Minister in the Central government, who voiced support for the AIJS following the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment, earlier this year, that diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. In our opinion, the AIJS is not a solution to these problems and the government would be well advised to reconsider its stance. So, how serious is the problem of vacancies, and is centralisation the solution? The facts speak The argument that the creation of the AIJS and a centralised recruitment process will help the lower judicial services is based on the assumption that the current federal structure, that vests the recruitment and appointment for the lower judiciary in the hands of State Governors, High Courts and State Public Service Commissions, is broken and inefficient. On facts, however, this assumption does not hold up. Going by the latest figures published by the Supreme Court in its publication Court News (December 2017 and the last available figures), many States are doing a very efficient job when it comes to recruiting lower court judges. In Maharashtra, of the 2,280 sanctioned posts, only 64 were vacant. In West Bengal, of the 1,013 sanctioned posts, only 80 were vacant. Those are perfectly acceptable numbers. However, there are States such as Uttar Pradesh where the situation is shocking. Of the 3,204 sanctioned posts, 1,348 are vacant, i.e. 42% vacancies. These numbers show that the problem of vacancies is not uniform across different States. The solution is to pressure poorly performing States into performing more efficiently. Further, the argument that the centralisation of recruitment processes through the UPSC automatically leads to a more efficient recruitment process is flawed and not a guarantee of a solution. For example, the Indian Administrative Service — its recruitments are through the UPSC — reportedly has a vacancy rate of 22%, while the Indian Army’s officer cadre, also under a centralised recruitment mechanism, is short of nearly 7,298 officers.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-solution-in-search-of-a-problem/article25823491.ece

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