Govt, judiciary now in sync on IAS-like service for judges

The idea of All India Judicial Service, on the lines of central services like the IAS and the IPS, seems to be coming closer to fruition with the government building a broader consensus with the higher judiciary on the issue and setting the stage for consultations with states.

Law minister Kiren Rijiju has called a state law ministers’ meeting in November where, along with the issue of development of infrastructure for subordinate court, formation of AIJS is likely to be on the table. To bring them on board, the government is not averse to accommodating concerns of various states on giving them freedom to continue with the recruitment of judicial officers for the subordinate judiciary. According to a source, the top judiciary seems to be in sync with the government’s major push to reform the recruitment of judges at the level of additional district judges. The option of higher judicial service, once introduced, will attract talented professionals to fill up the ranks of high courts and Supreme Court judges at an early age.

“Taking up AIJS is a long pending reform which the government and the higher judiciary has to take a call now. The states have to come on board as they, too, agree that there is discrimination against direct recruits in the state judicial services who never make it to the SC and a very few get chance to be elevated to the high courts,” the source said.

If an Army officer can become the Army chief and an IAS officer can become a secretary to head a central administrative function, why can’t a direct recruit from the judicial service rise up to the rank of an SC judge, he added. Currently, less than 25% of judicial officers have some chance of being elevated as judges of high courts, with the majority of them managing to reach only the rank of district judges towards the end of their professional career. The remaining 75% quota is fixed for recruitment of HC judges from the Bar. None from the judicial service can even aspire to go up to the Supreme Court.

“Probably this is the reason judicial services are not considered an appealing option for the talented,” the source said, adding that once the AIJS is introduced, the HC and SC will have a better talent pool with a younger age profile to choose from.

Another point of disagreement between the states and the Centre has been the language barrier. The government is prepared to train all recruits to the proposed AIJS in the same manner as an IAS or an IPS officer who are expected to learn local languages of states they are assigned to.

With a shortage of competent candidates to fill up vacancies in the 25 high courts where more than 471 posts are vacant (as on October 1), the higher judiciary seems to be fine with the idea of having an AIJS which can attract the best talent from the industry.

At present, bright minds are more inclined to take up jobs with private law firms rather than joining the judicial services with lack of promotional avenues.

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