NEED OF THE HOUR

The Supreme Court coming out in favour of introducing a common test at national level for selection of judges in lower judiciary is really a welcome move in the direction of enhancing the justice delivery system across the nation especially in view of the fact that a centralised mechanism would ensure appointment of competent judges without any delay thus paving the way for an effective judiciary. It is an acknowledged fact that a sense of confidence in the courts is essential to maintain the fabric of ordered liberty for a free people. However there are three things that could destroy that confidence and do incalculable damage to society i.e. that people come to believe that inefficiency and delay will drain even a just judgment of its value; that people who have long been exploited in the smaller transactions of daily life come to believe that courts cannot vindicate their legal rights from fraud and over-reaching and last but not the least that people come to believe the law in the larger sense cannot fulfill its primary function to protect them and their families in their homes, at their work, and on the public streets. In the present day India scenario there are multiple discrepancies in the justice delivery system. Therefore it becomes necessary that those at the helm of affairs in the Judiciary awaken and arise to seriously deliberate upon the issue and address it before the law abiding citizens lose faith in the system that has undoubtedly pronounced various landmark judgments to the people’s satisfaction. As such there is every reason to appreciate today’s observation by the Apex Court that introducing national level common test for selection of judges for lower judiciary is need of the hour. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and justices A K Goel and A M Khanwilkar tried to allay the apprehension of some States and the High Courts that introduction of such a common test was against the federal structure as their role in appointment of judges would be taken away by a central agency. It is pertinent to mention here that the Apex Court made the observation when counsel appearing for West Bengal government and Calcutta High Court strongly opposed Supreme Court’s proposal for centralised mechanism for judicial appointment in lower judiciary. It needs to be realized that no progress can be made in any country if the judiciary is not efficient enough because it has a larger impact even beyond the borders of a nation as no foreign investor would prefer to invest in the country where judiciary is not efficient enough. While pushing for major judicial reform it is a pre-requisite to bring uniformity in selection process and to curb the practice of favouritism and nepotism in selection of judges. It needs special mention that total sanctioned strength of judicial officers in district and subordinate courts was 21,320 as on June 30, 2016. Of these, 16,383 have been filled, leaving 4,937 vacancies. Thus lack of sufficient number of judges in lower courts has also resulted in staggering number of pendency of cases. As per the National Judicial Data Grid, the pendency in district courts is around 2.7 crore and ten per cent of these 2,32,3781 are cases pending over 10 years. The Supreme Court has made it amply clear that only the Common Test would be centralized and the merit list would be forwarded to the respective state authorities for making appointments to the lower judiciary as per their rules. Besides it has also sought suggestions from States as well as the High Courts across the nation. Now that the Apex Court has set the ball rolling, it is hoped that the concerned stakeholders will respond positively in the matter as it will go a long way in adding gloss to the lower judiciary besides improving the justice delivery system.