The NDA government appears to be seriously pursuing the concept of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS). Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha last week that the government was trying to expedite the setting up of the AIJS. According to Article 312(1) of the Constitution — which provides for setting up All India Services, including AIJS — the Rajya Sabha is required to pass a resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of its members present and voting. Thereafter, Parliament has to enact a law creating the AIJS. Contrary to popular misconception, it doesn’t require a constitutional amendment. However, many states and high courts have opposed the idea on the ground that it would go against federalism. To address their concerns, Prasad has appealed to all stakeholders, including all high courts, to give up their ‘traditional and conventional opposition’ to the AIJS.
A Law Commission report (1987) recommended that India should have 50 judges per million population as against 10.50 judges (then). Now, the figure has crossed 20 judges in terms of the sanctioned strength, but it’s nothing compared to the US or the UK — 107 and 51 judges per million people, respectively. As on January 28 this year, the working strength of the subordinate judiciary was 19,318 against the sanctioned strength of 24,247. It means almost 5,000 posts remain vacant.
Pendency figures also paint a grim picture. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, 3.81 crore cases are pending in various district and taluka courts across India. More than one lakh cases are pending for over 30 years. Last month, 14.80 lakh cases were filed, while the number of decided cases stood at 10.77 lakh. The situation deteriorated in the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. A 2012 report of the National Court Management Systems projected that the number of cases being filed would reach 15 crore in 30 years, requiring 75,000 judges. It’s time to build consensus and take a decisive step towards the AIJS before India is hit by a litigation explosion.