Thousands of lawyers apply for each examination that is notified for recruitment to the district and subordinate judiciary. The various High Courts conduct the recruitment exercise without sufficient staff strength and some have described it as an ‘ad hoc’ measure because there have been issues with it. The idea of an All India Judicial Service has been mooted since 1946. It has been discussed by the Law Commissions of India, which have favoured its creation. Recently, majority of High Courts said they want to retain control over recruitment. The idea has also been pressed by the All India Judges Association in two petitions to the Supreme Court, which wasn’t opposed to it in its first verdict in 1992 (the second is yet to come). Jurist, senior advocate and former attorney general of India Soli J Sorabjee, in an interview with Ushinor Majumdar, agrees that an All India Judicial Services, with a few tweaks, can be planned and executed to tackle the problem. He seconds an idea to have an entrance examination to recruit qualified lawyers as public prosecutors.
In many cases, the High Courts directly conduct the recruitment to the lower courts. The judges have to set questions, supervise correction. In charge of this is a single registrar, who has to manage with a few people. With thousands of aspirants, isn’t that too cumbersome a task for a High Court?
Yes, but then who should do it? It may be cumbersome, but a High Court knows best who should be promoted, elevated. It should not be done by any executive body. A High Court can consult it but the decisions must be with the High Courts. There is no alternative to it.
There is a suggestion for an independent agency to execute the recruitment, conduct an all-India exam and create an all-India judicial service.
The High Court is in charge of it now, but this becomes too cumbersome for the High Court. So, a mechanism should be designed where the initial groundwork can be done by other agencies, but the ultimate decision should be with the High Court. I am very anxious that the judiciary has the final word in it. Rather, I am very reluctant to say anything that would permit the executive to have any say in the matter. I have a personal disinclination towards executive interference. But I repeat that the ultimate decision should be of the High Courts, given the proper equipment and with the help of an independent agency. If it is cumbersome, make it less cumbersome but don’t do away with it.
There is a language obstacle. Do you think if we have specific local language papers in the exam for an all-India entrance exam?
Yeah, that’s a real problem. With local-language exam papers, it will go a long way in solving the problem. Every part of India has a different language. For a person in Kerala, Hindi may be as difficult as Chinese to read and understand. Similarly, people in north India may not understand any language in the south—Malayalam they won’t know. So, it’s a good idea but we should move gradually and on an experimental basis. In principle it is good, the most important thing is the execution of a good idea and taking care of all the problems that may arise in implementing it.
Do you think that an all India entrance exam for judges, a uniform system to recruit judges might work?
Looking at the nature of the problem and the existing realities, I think we should try that. There is also the Law Commission’s views that have agreed with it and I am inclined to agree with the Law Commission.
Do you think that we need a better system to choose prosecutors?
A prosecutor has a very important role to play. He must be an independent person and must not toe the line of the existing regime. It is a good idea to have an examination to select and appoint public prosecutors. The deputies can also be chosen through an independent examination if it is chosen by a single, uniform examination.
How do you think it will work?
It will depend upon the effective implementation of these ideas, many of which die on paper. The Supreme Court is over-burdened, but it can be handled at the state level. The High Courts should do it for their respective states and they would be better equipped to handle it. The governments should take an initiative to help in the effective administration of justice. Creating a prosecutors’ chamber will be good for the system and there is no question of executive interference there.