ew Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde has expressed himself in favour of starting a National Judicial Service as part of the urgently needed judicial reforms in the country. He rooted for this even before he formally took charge this week. Obviously, he intends to mean well. The call comes at a time when the judiciary has lost a big portion of its old aura and is showing signs of degeneration and degradation. No system can carry on for long unless changes are effected periodically and in tune with the times for its proper upkeep. The same is with the Indian judiciary as well.
At a critical hour, pushed to the walls, India effected economic reforms at the start of the 1990s. It was supposed to change the way the nation with a billion population looked at money management and financial conduct. May be that has not been a great success. The whole world today is revisiting its former craze towards liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG). The socialistic principles that supposedly stood in the way were given a decent burial under the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh governments and the gates were opened for LPG to take over virtually everything in this country. Today, the nation is on the brink of handing over its natural resources such as coal, iron ore and all other mines into the eagerly outstretched arms of a select few big corporates. Ports, highways, airports, refineries, power including other major infra like telecom and such other sectors that are considered the backbone of any country are already privatized. India seems destined to follow the wrongs committed by other nations, albeit with a huge time lag. Thereby, forcing untold misery on the common citizen.
The irony of the Indian version of LPG was that it took lessons from Communist China to effect this turnaround, while China eventually and over a period of time has itself changed its economic and foreign policies many times. That adoption of LPG may have taken India on to a higher growth trajectory but that was a lop-sided growth which resulted in wealth accumulating in the hands of a very select few families. The downslide is visible in India now. Reforms, as we in India have learnt the bitter way, can only be implemented keeping the ‘human element’ in mind.
Also, it must be admitted that unlike the economic reforms, it is not easy to do likewise in other sectors. Economic reforms could be implemented with a legislative action. It may take time to seep down very slowly but may affect ground level work after some time.
However, creating a National Judicial Service may sound like a parallel to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) or Indian Police Service (IPS). Anyone familiar with the style and attitude of these all India services can well imagine how an all India judicial service ‘bureaucrat’ would behave. That person would certainly be more a bureaucrat in mental make-up and outlook than an impartial judge with (hopefully) the strength of character to defy those in power in favour of the spirit of the law of the land.
The judiciary took major hits in recent years. Criticism of the judiciary is not appreciated in India and this formed the cover for rotten apples to engage in indulgences of several kinds. The ‘Crores for Bail’ scam unfolded not only at the Hyderabad High Court some years ago but was and is still prevalent all over. Such exposes punctured the reputation of the judiciary, for a start. It exemplified the corruption in the judicial services. When a society is turning increasingly corrupt, no institution can be immune from it, unless periodic checks and balances are put in place. Now no one knows who can or should check whom! Then came sex-related allegations from which even judges of the apex court were not spared. The allegation against the last CJI is ample proof.
To start with, the formation of a National Judicial Service on the lines of the Civil Services would not be able to draw in smart brains and talents into it. Most of those who enter the legal services as a profession to be used as a stepping stone to attain the post of a judge – are not known to be ones with intelligence of a high order as of now. Rather than an intelligently done balancing act, an adjustment raj is the result. Years spent in passing the course and the years thereafter without any earnings until one establishes himself or herself as a magistrate or judge in a good post are real dampeners to most. The real bright ones would prefer to practice as lawyers and, thereby, earn much more because of the very fact that almost all those sitting on the high pedestal are unable to comprehend what these smart ones are talking about. When a real sharp judge does come by then the whole atmosphere of that Court changes and the litigant public sees justice being meted out.
The start of a judicial service will change such perceptions and an assured income from the very start will make the judicial officers lethargic and uncaring. Their seniority will take them up and not their outstanding performance or quotable judgements.
However and equally importantly, the large-scale vacancies that exist in the judiciary and the resultant delay in disposal of cases can still be a thing that would remain irksome whether it is this way or that.