New Delhi: The Supreme Court will soon examine a proposal for having “singular examination" under a Centralised Selection Mechanism (CSM) to select judicial officers, to fill up vacancies in subordinate judiciary, which stands at over 20% of the sanctioned strength.

A ‘concept note’ on the matter has been prepared by senior advocate Arvind Datar, who has been appointed amicus curiae (friend of court), to assist the apex court which has on its own taken up the task of evolving the centralised selection mechanism to deal with large vacancies in the lower judiciary, which is affecting speedy disposal of cases.

The note also highlighted that the sanctioned strength of district and subordinate judges in India at present is approximately 21,000, and out of these, nearly 4,800 positions are lying vacant.

The Supreme Court had on 4 August indicated that it was inclined to go ahead with a proposal for the central government-funded CSM even if there was no amicable consensus among various high courts and the states, and had said that if the need arose it might accord a day-long hearing on the issue later this month to resolve the objections to the proposal.

The ‘concept note’ made public by the apex court has given details of vacancies in subordinate judiciary and has proposed to have a District Judges Recruitment Examination (DJURE) under the CSM to make the process of appointment smooth.

It said approximately 300 vacancies need to be filled up each year through direct recruitment/examination — DJURE with an aim to provide “a regular pool of meritorious candidates to recruitment and selection bodies for State Judicial Services across India".

“It is indeed distressing that several vacancies for district judges are not filled due to the lack of qualified and meritorious advocates. This is perhaps due to the absence of a regular/periodic examination system. “In most states, the examinations are held in an ad-hoc fashion. There is no syllabus to enable candidates to prepare in advance. The uncertainty and irregularity is what the District Judges Recruitment Examination aims to eradicate," the note said.

It said that under the CSM, candidates would be able to write a single common examination, namely the DJURE, and be considered for selection in all the states for which they fulfil the eligibility criteria.

“The proposed DJURE would not compromise the autonomy of the states in regulating the terms of recruitment or the conditions of service. This is what distinguishes the DJURE from an All India Judicial Service. All existing rules regarding reservation, eligibility and service conditions in the states would continue to be in force," the note said.

The proposed mechanism only seeks to centralise the preparation of merit list which is based on the performance of a candidate in a written examination, it said, adding that the DJURE will not alter the existing eligibility criteria in different states.

It proposed that DJURE examination could consist of 600 marks — four papers of 100 marks each, and 200 marks for interview. It said that idea of instituting a CSM has been agreed in principle by most high courts in the country.

As per the details provided in the note, Gujarat has the maximum vacancy of 820 judges in subordinate judiciary out of a sanctioned strength of 1,953, followed by Bihar where 809 posts are lying vacant out of a sanctioned strength of 1,825 judicial officers.

Among other states with large vacancies are Uttar Pradesh, which has a sanctioned strength of 2,262 with 588 vacancies, Karnataka with 376 vacancies and the national capital of Delhi with 302 vacancies.

The least number of vacancies were found in Sikkim with four posts vacant, out of sanctioned strength of 18 judges.

“The DJURE is the first step towards creating a regular annual examination for selecting a meritorious pool of candidates from which appointments can be made to District Judiciary.

“This will generate a tremendous opportunity to younger members of the Bar to systematically prepare for such an examination," the note said and suggested that for now the DJURE should be used for appointing district judges alone.

It further suggested that to improve the quality of lower subordinate judiciary, the Supreme Court may also direct high courts to conduct annual examinations for the same, along the lines of the DJURE.

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 note, which has been put up on the Supreme Court website, also proposed a fixed time-table of holding DJURE as it will “enable an advocate, unsuccessful in a given year, to try harder and make further attempts in a planned manner for the subsequent years".

It, however, clarified, that DJURE will merely present a pool of candidates from whom judges can be recruited, after an interview with the selection authority. “The selection will remain with the respective high courts in accordance with Article 233," it added.