SC for centralised system for lower judiciary appointments

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today indicated that it was inclined to go ahead with a proposal for a centralised selection mechanism for appointment of judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary even if there was no amicable consensus among various the high courts and the states.

It said that if the need arose it might accord a day-long hearing on the issue on August 22 to resolve the objections of various states and high courts to the proposal.

“We are inclined to pass an order after reaching an amicable consensus. If the objections persist, we may still pass the orders,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said.

The bench, also comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and A M Khanwilkar, tried to assuage the concern of various states and high court, saying there would be no breach and interference in the federal structure.

“We are trying to do some service to the nation. It is nobody’s gain. No country can progress if there is no functional and effective judiciary. No person from abroad would like to come to India and contest his case for 15 years.

Citizen should have confidence in the judiciary,” it said.

It directed the apex court registry to send a “concept note” of the proposal allaying the objections to all the registrars general of the high courts and the secretaries of the law ministries of all the states.

The bench said that the high courts and the law ministries of the states should put the concept note on their websites to seek suggestions from the public and after analysis forward it to the apex court before August 17.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, representing the Centre, suggested that examination for subordinate judiciary should have a commercial law paper in the syllabus.

“There are four suggestions from the Union government.

One is that the examination should have a commercial law paper along with other subjects. Secondly, there should also be a test to check the technology proficiency of the candidate,” he said.

Kumar said that the third suggestion of the Centre was that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) being a professional independent body having experience, could be entrusted to hold such examinations. The last one was that the cost should be shared by the Centre and the states on a fifth-fifty basis.

The bench, however, disagreed with this suggestion of the solicitor general, saying it would amount to interfering in the federal structure as the syllabus for the exam was a state subject.

It said these change of papers, marks, syllabus are small changes which could be given effect by modifying the order, when the need arises.

Senior advocate Kalyan Bannerjee, appearing for the West Bengal government, the state had some objections to the proposal it would amount to a breach of the federal structure.

“Every thing would happen from Delhi. My Calcutta High Court or the state government would not have any say in the appointment of judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary,” he said, adding that the high court has been conducting the examination regularly, but there were vacancies in the high court.

To this, the bench objected to Bannerjee calling, “My Calcutta High Court” and said it was not “my, but it is our Calcutta High Court”.

“You should not make it political. You should rest assured there will be no interference in the federal structure,” it said.

The court said that it wanted proffessional people to come into the judiciary so that they could do something for the institution.

On July 28, the apex court had said it would issue a “concept note” on its proposal for a centralised selection mechanism after some high courts expressed their reservation over any such move.

It had asked senior advocate Arvind Dattar, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, to prepare the concept note on the proposal after Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Calcutta high courts raised their objection on account of language and reservation criteria.

The bench had clarified that the centralised process would not affect their rules, reservation or language and it would be like a UPSC examination.

The apex court was hearing a case taken up on its own after a letter was written to the secretary general of the apex court by Secretary (Justice) Snehlata Shrivastava at the Centre.

According to a report earlier issued by the Supreme Court –‘Indian Judiciary Annual Report 2015-2016’– a whopping 2.8 crore cases were pending in the district courts across the country which were short of nearly 5,000 judicial officers.

The report had suggested increasing the judicial manpower “manifold” — at least seven times — to overcome the crisis by appointing about 15,000 more judges in the coming years.

Another apex court report — ‘Subordinate Courts of India: A Report on Access to Justice 2016’– had also highlighted that nearly 15,000 more judges would be required in the next three years to overcome this critical situation.

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