Recently it has come into news that the BCI has decided to file an interpleader application in the Regalagadda v State of Andhra Pradesh & another 2020 for implementation of 3 years of mandatory litigation practice. This is for those who aspire to join the lower rung of judicial service such as civil judges (junior division) because subordinate judicial magistrates who are directly recruited to judiciary without having advocacy experience are incapable, inept, impractical, impolite, lack understanding of the aspirations of the advocates and litigants.
Due to this, it results in delays in disposal of cases in the subordinate judiciary. It has been emphasized by the BCI that experienced and trained judicial officers can comprehend and dispose of cases in the subordinate judiciary at a much faster pace, meaning thereby that would lead to the efficient administration of justice.
The central point from the perspective of BCI is that delay in disposal of cases at the stage of subordinate judiciary is due to lack of practical experience of those judges who are recruited directly to the judiciary and that inadequacy of practical experience can be solved by three years practice at Bar.
Before getting into the rationality and fairness of BCI’s assertion, it is pertinent to look into the Shetty Commission Report about the service condition of judicial officers and court staff.
Shetty Commission was constituted in 1996 pursuant to an order in the All India Judge’s Association case to study service conditions of judicial officers and court staff. It also made several observations about service conditions of judicial officers and court staff and made several recommendations to upgrade the performance of the judiciary in terms of a speedy and fair trial.
It becomes important to understand what were the reasons given in the report concerning the delay in justice in courts:
1)inadequate number of courts and insufficient staffs
2)apathy of the government in allocating funds to the judicial branch of state
It has been a general perception to accuse judicial officers of the delay in disposal of cases by ignoring the fact that functions of judicial officers are supplemented by the staff of the court. Their work extends to pre-trial, during the trial, and post-trial stages of the case. Without their contribution at all these stages, there cannot be prompt and satisfactory termination of any case.
In the Shetty Commission Report, it was lamented over the apathy of the government in the allocation of appropriate funds for optimal functioning of the judiciary.
On the point of infrastructure, opinions of different High Courts were taken where it was highlighted that the condition of courts, especially lower courts, is in such a bad state that there are no proper arrangements even for basic requirements such toilets for judicial officers, leakage in the building, falling of plasters of the ceiling where it at one instance missed the head of the judge.
The most important thing that needs to be understood is that delay in justice and its reasons that were articulated by the commission have persisted even before the implementation of direct recruitment to the lower rung of the judiciary. Among various suggestions to increase efficiency, the recruitment of young and brilliant legal minds was one of the suggestions rather than an impediment in the efficient administration of justice.
It is also pertinent to mention that fresh law graduates tend to get a minimal amount when they go to practice at Bar which is not equivalent to subsistence amount. However, there are various law firms or Chambers that give monthly salaries to fresh graduates but there is no fixed minimum subsistence amount. As a result, many advocates are forced to work at extremely low salaries. This is also one of the reasons why the pool of fresh law graduates tends to prepare for judicial services to fulfil their dream of joining the legal profession which is stable and certain.
It has come to light through the report of Hindustan Times that judges in the High Court and Supreme Court do form a closed network of kith and kin that is also one of the reasons first-generation lawyers tend to join subordinate judiciary through direct examination.
BCI has talked about the impracticality in the attitude of judicial magistrates who are directly recruited without having any prior experience of practice at Bar. In this country, legal education is regulated by BCI from giving license to law colleges to administering the course structure of the Law College syllabus along with maintaining the quality education to students. It raises a serious question on the capability of BCI in maintaining quality in legal education as after 5 years or 3 years of the LL. B program.
A student is not equipped with the practical aspects of the law. A law student spends such a huge period studying law and after that, if they are not equipped with the practical aspect of law then it is not the fault of the selection process of judicial services; rather it is the fault of the rigid and archaic model of imparting legal education that does not serve the purpose of the contemporary world.
In medical science, a cure to disease is found by proper diagnosis rather than by the subjective opinion of experts. BCI has failed in the proper diagnosis of the problem it has raised in a press release. Rather than making lobbying for 3 years a compulsory practice, it should become the voice of the people by pressurizing the government for allocating sufficient amount for the proper functioning of the judiciary, increasing judge population ratio, and improving the infrastructure.
All this so that the judges can function in a conducive and ambient atmosphere. And most importantly, it should introspect about itself as an institution that where it failed in standing true to its objective of maintaining quality legal education.