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Report No. 14

121. Conditions in West Bengal.-

In the district of the 24-Paraganas, Alipore, West Bengal, the strength of the district judicial officers has been increased from time to time, but the court buildings have not been enlarged to accommodate them. For several years past a series of tin roofed sheds have been constructed in the compound of the district court in which these judicial officers have been holding their courts. These leaking tin structures used as court houses were thus described by the Chief Justice of the State:

"At most of the stations, even Alipore and Howrah are not excepted, the Court and its subsidiary buildings are not.only wholly inadequate, but also, structurally of so miserable a character that for an advanced country to hold its courts in such buildings is little short of a disgrace."

In some courts, the court halls are so small that there is just enough space for the judge's dais. The counsel practically lean on the judge's table during hearings and witnesses and parties crowd the rooms to the point of suffocation. There are no seating facilities either for counsel or parties. It is a matter for surprise that any serious work at all is done in such surroundings. It is indeed a great credit to our subordinate judiciary that they should turn out fairly satisfactory work in the conditions in which they are placed in regard to court accommodation, residential accommodation and libraries.

121A. Plea of financial stringency.-

The representatives of the State Governments who gave evidence before us admitted the inadequacy and unsuitability of the court premises but expressed their helplessness to make any provision for new court buildings in the foreseeable future. We were told by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Uttar Pradesh that construction of additional court buildings did not find a place in the general scheme of development under the Five-Year Plans to which the resources of the State Government stood committed. According to him, expenditure on court buildings and other buildings for official purposes is not regarded as expenditure on planning either by the State or the Central Government or the Planning Commission and it was not, therefore, possible to allocate for such purposes any of the funds provided by the Central or State Government in the planning schemes.

122. Phased building programme necessary.-

It is unfortunate that such a view should be taken of the requirements of judicial administration particularly when one remembers the surpluses the States earn, from the revenues accruing from judicial administration. We would strongly urge upon the State Governments to give the matter of providing better accommodation for the courts, the very urgent attention that it calls for, and make adequate allotment of funds for court buildings. This should be done by a programme phased over years, in which allotments would be made in consultation with the High Court for court buildings and other court requirements, for each year.

123. Inadequate libraries (Improvement necessary).-

Judicial officers all over the country have very little equipment by way of libraries. A number of them are not being supplied even with books which they would need for frequent reference. The responsibility for making the necessary books available to the judiciary rests with the High Courts. But apparently the High Courts have not been able to persuade Governments to make adequate provision in the budgets for the purpose. The major part of the amount provided in the budgets is spent in the cost of the Law Reports which are supplied to every court. The requirements of courts in the matter of books vary.

It is not therefore necessary that every court should be supplied with an identical set of books. The district judge and the High Court will have to decide on the minimum requirements of each court and induce the Government to make such increased grant, as is necessary for the purchase of those books. As matters stand, judicial officers have frequently to rely upon the members of the Bar for making the necessary books available to them. It is not possible for the members of the Bar, who have worked in a large number of courts, to spare their own copies for the judicial officer on each and every occasion whenever books are needed by them.

It is imperative, therefore, that each court should have a small library of text-books and law reports sufficient for its requirements. It should not cost the Government a great deal to make a provision for such libraries. These expenses should in our view be a first charge on the revenues derived by the State Governments from the administration of justice. The provision for such books is necessary to ensure that correct decisions are rendered and appeals arising from incorrect decisions avoided.

124. Difficulties in obtaining residential accommodation (The position in Bihar and elsewhere).-

We may refer also to the difficulties which judicial officers experience in obtaining suitable residential accommodation at the stations to which they are posted. We were told that in the matter of the allotment of requisitioned premises, the judiciary received a step-motherly treatment at the hands of the executive. Instances appear to have occurred in which a requisitioned house occupied by a judicial officer was, on his transfer from that station, allotted to an executive officer and the successor in office of the transferred judicial officer was left to fend for himself.

There have occurred cases where an order of the High Court, transferring a judicial officer had to be cancelled, only for the reason that the officer transferred had been unable to arrange residential accommodation at the new station. We were told at Patna, that one of the judicial officers on transfer to Patna had to live in his court chambers for a few months, because he could not get residential accommodation. The Chief Justice of the State described the situation thus:

"There are 238 officers below the rank of a District Judge employed in the whole State. At present there are only 51 Government residences available. There is a great scarcity of residential accommodation and some judicial officers really live under appalling conditions. I am told that there was a Munsif at Patna who for want of accommodation in the rented house had to spread a table on the municipal footpath every morning to do his judicial work. Some judicial officers have been compelled to institute fair rent settlement proceedings before the House Controller against unscrupulous landlords in order to avoid paying exorbitant rents.

At Gaya one of the Additional District Judges was living in a thatched house and suffering much inconvenience during the monsoon on account of leaking roofs. There have been instances of judicial officers who have entered into unseemly competition with officers of other departments for obtaining housing accommodation. The High Court has recently examined this problem and has forwarded to the State Government the requirements of judicial officers for residential accommodation. At least 103 houses are necessary to be constructed and a list of the projects has been arranged in order of priority and has been sent to the State Governments."

We are satisfied that similar conditions exist in several other States.

125. Possible untoward consequences.-

The problem of finding residential accommodation for the judiciary has a special aspect. It is not proper to place judicial officers in a position that would compel them to incur obligations from persons who might well be litigants in their courts. Such a situation puts the independence of judicial officers in peril. It seems to us, therefore, that it is particularly important that Government should provide judicial officers with suitable residences.

Need for special attention.- A view seems to be taken in some quarters that there was hardly any relation between the residential accommodation made available to a judicial officer and the efficiency of his work. Such a view is obviously untenable. We were told of cases, where for lack of suitable accommodation within the financial capacity of the officer, he had to reside so far away from the locality in which the court was situated, that he spent over two hours everyday to go to and return from his courts. It is easy to see that a judicial officer who has to study papers at home and write judgments outside court hours would find it difficult to work under such conditions. In other cases, officers had to pay such heavy rents that they were not left with funds to spend on their other necessary requirements. It is true that these observations apply in a measure to nearly all Government servants. But we have already explained how the judiciary needs special attention in this regard.

126. Corruption in the ministerial staff (Causes).-

We had a substantial body of evidence regarding corruption in the ministerial staff of the courts. It was said that this evil has existed for a very long time. There appear to be three main reasons for this state of affairs. The emoluments of the staff are in many cases near the starvation level. The number of the staff is generally speaking very inadequate. Finally, there is a lack of supervision on the part of the presiding officers. It is therefore imperative that the conditions of service of the ill-paid staff should be improved as early as possible. So inadequate is the staff in some places that in order to cope with the copying and other work the staff itself employs outsiders to assist them and this can only be done from the illegal gains made by the staff. The staff should, therefore, be increased and brought up to the required strength.

127. Need for improved supervision.-

In regard to supervision, a great deal can be by done the presiding officers which either through inexperience or neglect, they often fail to do. A feeling appears to have grown among judicial officers that their duty consists only in the discharge of judicial functions and that administrative matters are of secondary importance or beneath their notice. Such a view is entirely erroneous. The efficient working of a court does not depend only on the work of the judicial offers in taking evidence, hearing arguments and delivering judgment. A number of sections in the administration departments of a court contribute to the satisfactory ending of a cause.

The working of each of these sections calls for a certain measure of administrative scrutiny by the presiding officer. Only persistent and close scrutiny of the working of these administrative sections can control corruption. A paper book can be held up, a summons may be kept back, a decree may not issue in proper time, a copy may not be delivered or a payment order can be delayed. Delays or obstruction in these and similar matters which cause hardship to parties are utilized by the subordinate staff to make improper gains.

The court over which a judicial 'officer presides suffers in the public eye if the administrative set up of the court is corrupt. This undoubtedly reflects discredit on the judicial officer concerned. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that a judicial officer should examine the administrative sections from time to time and control the staff. It is necessary that the High Courts should impress upon all judicial officers the importance of a periodical examination of the working of their offices.

128. Delegation of powers to punish subordinate staff.-

We are of the view that an improvement can be brought about in the working of the staff of the subordinate courts by a larger delegation of powers of punishment to the presiding officers instead of leaving them as at present in the hands of the district judge.

129. Quality of staff.-

It is also necessary to take steps to improve the quality of the staff of the courts. A knowledge of law is necessary for some members of the staff. Their duties include the examination of plaints, and the drafting of decrees and orders. A large majority of the staff does not have a knowledge of law. The remedy would be to appoint law graduates wherever possible, or subject all recruits to these posts to a training in those branches of law with which they are required to be familiar for the discharge of their duties. The States of Andhra Pradesh and Madras have surmounted this difficulty by insisting on the superior staff of subordinate courts passing an appropriate departmental examination in civil and criminal law. The adoption of a similar practice in all States will serve a useful purpose.

130. Summary of recommendation.-

Our recommendations on the subordinate judiciary can be summarised as follows:-

(1) There should be one State Judicial Service divided into two classes-Class I consisting of the present Higher Judicial Service, that is officers holding the posts of district judges or other equivalent posts and Class II comprising of two grades of officers-the munsifs and the subordinate judges.

(2) In States where the judiciary has been separated from the executive, the civil and the criminal judiciary should be united and formed into an integrated cadre.

(3) The age limit for recruitment to the judicial service should be fixed at thirty years.

(4) The recruitment should be made on the result of a competitive examination conducted by the Public Service Commission.

(5) The examination should be of a practical character such as the writing of a judgment in case with the aid of the case papers and law books.

(6) The examiners should be appointed in consultation with or the concurrence of the High Court.

(7) It may be advisable to have a fair proportion of the examiners from outside the State.

(8) There should also be a viva voce test, but no minimum should be prescribed for it.

(9) A High Court Judge should be associated with the Public Service Commission for the purposes of the viva voce test and have a preponderating voice in conducting it.

(10) There should be no reservation in the cadre of the subordinate judiciary for the purpose of ministerial staff of the courts, nor should a higher age limit be prescribed for them.

(11) Persons so recruited should be given intensive training for a period between six months to one year.

(12) The details of the training should be settled for each State by the Government in consultation with the High Court.

(13) The training, however, should follow the pattern set out in paras 46 to 49, ante.

(14) The training should under no circumstances be shortened or dispensed with.

(15) A selected district judge should be entrusted with the duty of imparting the necessary training.

(16) An all-India Judicial Service should be created which should man forty per cent. of the posts of the strength of the higher judiciary in every State.

(17) These officers should be selected by means of an all-India competitive examination on the lines of Indian Administrative Service examination.

(18) The candidates should be law graduates between the ages of 21 and 25 and should be required to offer at least two optional papers in law.

(19) No minimum period of practice at the Bar need be insisted upon in their case.

(20) Such officers should normally be allotted to States other than their home States.

(21) After selection the officers should be trained for a period of two years.

(22) In the beginning they should be trained along with officers of the Indian Administrative Service.

(23) In addition to the subjects taught to the Indian Administrative Service officers like language etc., the officers of the Indian Judicial Service should study additional subjects like civil procedure, company law and the like.

(24) After the training in the Indian Administrative Service school there should be a further period of intensive training in the State for a period of one year.

(25) The training should be of the nature described in para 63, ante.

(26) After training the officers will be posted as magistrates.

(27) After working as magistrates, munsifs and subordinate judges, they should by about the tenth year of their service be posted as district and sessions judges.

(28) The emoluments of Indian Judicial Service officers should be the same as those of the Indian Administrative Service.

(29) On appointment as district and sessions judges, however, their remuneration will be on the same scale as that of State Judicial Service officers.

(30) These officers should man forty per cent. of the posts in the Higher Judicial Service.

(31) The remaining sixty per cent. should be filled in by promotion from the State Judicial Service and by direct recruitment from the Bar.

(32) Thirty per cent. of the posts should be filled by promotion of officers of the State Judicial Service and thirty per cent. by direct recruitment from the Bar.

(33) If the creation of the Indian Judicial Service leads to satisfactory results it might be desirable to raise the percentage of recruits on an all-India basis.

(34) It is necessary to continue direct recruitment from the Bar at the level of district judges.

(35) The minimum requirement for such appointment should be a practice of seven years and an upper age limit of 40.

(36) It is not necessary to subject such direct recruits to any training.

(37) There should be uniformity in the pay scales of civil judicial officers.

(38) The starting pay of civil judicial officers is, generally speaking, too low.

(39) The practice of giving biennial increments in the judicial service is not desirable.

(40) The pay scale of a civil judge (junior division) should be fixed at Rs. 350- 25-400-confirmation-30-520-E.B.-30-700.

(41) The pay scales of subordinate judges should be distinct from that of munsifs and there should be no overlapping.

(42) The pay scale of a subordinate judge should be Rs. 700-50-1,000.

(43) The pay scale of a district judge should not be less than that of the senior scale of the Indian Administrative Service.

(44) The starting salary of district judges should be fixed with some advance increments on the basis of their prior service in the subordinate judiciary.

(45) There should be no difference in the pay scales of district judges, additional district judges and others holding corresponding posts carrying equal responsibility.

(46) Promotions in the judicial service should not be on the basis of mere seniority, but only on ability and merit.

(47) The retiring age of members of subordinate judiciary should be raised to fifty eight. However, judicial officers should not be re-employed by Government after retirement.

(48) All posts for which an officer of the status.of district judge is required should be included in the cadre of district judges and the strength of the cadre be fixed on that basis.

(49) Though the civil judiciary is remarkably free from corruption, there is scope for improvement in the criminal judiciary in States where the judiciary has not been separated from the executive.

(50) No penalty other than that of dismissal should be imposed on any judicial officer who has been found guilty of corruption.

(51) It is not advisable to form anti-corruption committees consisting of the district judge and members of the Bar to go into cases of alleged corruption of judicial officers.

(52) The High Courts should take particular care in scrutinising the reputation of the subordinate judicial officers for integrity at the time of promotion.

(53) Article 234 of the Constitution needs modification so that, even appointments to the subordinate judiciary below the rank of district judges are made on the recommendation of the High Court. This change will be unnecessary if recruitment is made on the basis of a competitive examination as suggested by us.

(54) Article 235 of the Constitution should be amended so as to vest in the High Court the power of posting and promotion of district judges.

(55) The State Governments should in consultation with the High Courts draw up a phased programme for the building of court houses.

(56) The budget provision for the supply of law books to the subordinate courts should be increased.

(57) The needs of the judicial officers for residential accommodation deserve special attention at the hands of the State Governments.

(58) The conditions of service of the ministerial staff of the subordinate courts should be improved.

(59) Their strength should be adequate to cope with the work.

(60) Larger powers of punishment of the subordinate staff should be delegated to the presiding officers of courts.

(61) The staff of the subordinate courts should be trained in law and required to pass a departmental examination in that subject.

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