Report No. 14
Originally the State of Bihar was a part of the Province of Bengal. In 1912, the Province of Bihar and Orissa was constituted as a separate unit by taking Bihar, Orissa and the Commissionership of Chhota Nagpur out of the old Province of Bengal and the district of Sambalpur out of the Central Provinces. The present State of Bihar came into existence when Orissa was carved out as a separate province in 1936.
Prior to the reorganisation of the States, the area of the State was 67,164 square miles and according to the last census it had population of 38,779,562. No substantial changes came about in the State on account of the recent reorganisation, except, that some portions of the two districts of Purnea and Manbhum, were transferred to the State of West Bengal. Administratively, the State is divided into 17 Districts and 1 Sub-District, which are grouped in 4 Divisions namely, Patna, Bhagalpur, Tirhut and Chhota Nagpur.
2. Organisation of Subordinate Judiciary.-
There are fourteen judgeships in the State. The Bihar Superior Judicial Service which is composed of District & Sessions Judges, Additional District and Sessions Judges, Registrar of the High Court, Secretary and Dy. Secretary to the Government, has a sanctioned strength of 41, out of whom 16 are District and Sessions Judges and 25 Additional District and Sessions Judges.
The scale of pay of District and Sessions Judges is the same as the senior scale in the Indian Administrative Service, that is, Rs. 800-501,000-60-1,300-50-1,800, but the Additional District and Sessions Judges, who perform exactly the same functions as District and Sessions Judges, except that they do not exercise any administrative functions, are in the scale of Rs. 800-50-1,500. This is an anomaly which exists not only in Bihar but also in some other States. In our view the administrative duties of the District Judge do not justify the difference in their scales of pay.
Recruitment to the Superior Judicial Service is made both by promotion and by direct recruitment. Two-thirds of the posts are filled by promotion and one-third by direct recruitment from the Bar.
3. The Bihar Civil Service (Judicial Branch) is composed of Subordinate Judges and Munsifs, with a sanctioned strength of 71 and 232 respectively. Some of the posts are temporary, but it is understood that they are being converted into permanent posts. Subordinate Judges are on the time scale of Rs. 350-15-38030-770-40- 850. Recruitment to the posts of Subordinate Judges is made by the High Court by promotion of Munsifs who have been confirmed in the service. It is gratifying to notice that in this State in making promotions to higher judicial ranks, the criterion of merit is strictly applied and not merely that of seniority. Likewise, very strict tests are applied in allowing officers to cross the efficiency bar. A number of instances were brought to our notice, in which judicial officers were either stopped at the efficiency bar, or were passed over for promotion and junior officers superseded them.
Various modes of recruiting Munsifs have been adopted from time to time. The existing recruitment rules came into force in September 1955. Under these rules Munsifs are recruited on the basis of a competitive examination held by the State Public Service Commission. The requisite qualifications are, that the candidate should be a law graduate with at least 2 years practice at the Bar and must be between 25 to 29 years of age; the maximum age limit is however relaxable upto 34 in the case of Scheduled Caste candidates.
The syllabus for the written examination which carried 600 marks, comprises four compulsory papers which includes General English, General Knowledge, Elementary General Science and General Hindi and four out of six optional papers in Law, in which the paper on the Law of Evidence and Procedure is compulsory. The viva voce test, which carried 200 marks, is conducted by the Public Service Commission, with which a judge of the High Court is associated as an expert. In the last selection, candidates who obtained a minimum of 45% marks in the written test were called for the viva voce test.
Munsifs are on the time scale of Rs. 220-25-395-E.B.-25-545-E.B.-25670-20-750. It may be remarked that in this State, the initial salary of the Munsif is the lowest in the country. In contrast, the officers of the Bihar Civil Service (Executive Branch), who are called Deputy Magistrates and Deputy Collectors, draw pay on the scale of Rs. 220-25-320-E.B.-25-570-E.B.-25770-30-800.
The anomaly is particularly striking as entrants to the executive branch can enter service at the earlier age of 21 and are not required to have the additional qualification of a law degree. It is therefore not surprising that the judicial service has failed to attract talent. The difficulty of finding suitable recruits has been aggravated by the fact that in recent years due to the increase of work and the separation of the judiciary from the executive it has become necessary to recruit larger numbers.
This has compelled the State to recruit inferior personnel. In fact we were told that recently a list of 110 names was made out of 300 candidates for 75 vacancies, but the general level of the candidates was so poor, that but for the need of filling vacancies the Public Service Commission would not have selected more than 25 or 30 out of those 110 candidates. Higher scales of pay may perhaps go some way towards securing better recruits and more intensive training may make the persons more efficient judicial officers.
4. There is another aspect which deserves mention. There is a considerable over-lapping in the scales of pay of Munsifs and that of Subordinate Judges. Hence, if a Munsif is promoted as a Subordinate Judge, it is likely that all that would probably be done is, to fix his initial salary immediately above his pay in the scale of pay allowed to the Subordinate Judges. If that is so, the promotion of a Munsif would amount merely to a change in the designation and a discharge of functions with a greater responsibility without any commensurate monetary advantage. We have already adverted to this matter and made appropriate recommendations in our chapter on "Subordinate Judiciary".
5. A commendable feature in this State which may with advantage be adopttd elsewhere is the comprehensive training given to those recruited as Munsifs, before they are placed in charge of courts. The training is for a period of 2 years, during which the probationer has to work with a Senior Munsif and a Subordinate Judge for 6 months, as a Magistrate for 6 months, and receives training under the District and Sessions Judge for 3 months. He also gets training in the general revenue work in Collectorate for about 4 months, and in survey and settlement for about 31/2 months or so.
For the next 11/2 months he gets training under a Government Pleader in the conduct of cases. During this period of 2 years he has to pass a departmental examination in law, including Tenancy Laws, High Court General Rules and Circular Orders and in Hindi. As there is no shortage of officers, we understand the training of Munsifs is not ordinarily dispensed with in any case. It is however a matter for consideration whether such a lengthy period of training designed for candidates recruited directly from the law college may not be somewhat shortened and intensified now that recruitment is made from practising lawyers.
6. High Court.-
The High Court of Patna was established by Letters Patent in 1916. It exercised jurisdiction over Orissa also until a separate High Court was established for that province in 1948.
7. When the court was established in 1916, it started with 7 judges including the Chief Justice. In 1948, after a separate High Court was constituted for Orissa, the strength was 9 judges. The strength has however varies from 12 to 14 judges between 1951 to 1957. At present the strength is 16 judges, two judges having been appointed recently in the beginning of this year. We have referred to the delays in filling up vacancies in this High Court in an earlier chapter. Such delays in this State have ranged between 2 months to 11 months. The delays in effect amount to depriving the High Court of the services of a judge for a period of 5 years, 8 months and 15 days between 1951 to 1957. In addition, the services of judges have been frequently requisitioned for non-judicial work without a substitute being provided.