From law entrance to the courthouse: The journey to becoming a judge
In the previous article, we discussed how the judiciary is one of the most coveted and prestigious institutions of the country, how it is a bulwark for our Constitution and other laws, and how, a judge has the crucial responsibility of dispensing justice. However, on the other hand, we saw how there are many problems plaguing this institution at the moment- ranging from disputes over the appointment of judges to instances questioning people’s faith in the institution itself. The only way to ensure that this pivotal pillar of our governance does not go to waste is to reinstate faith in it by transparent processes and appointments, and most of all, by the youth taking charge and taking up the challenge of pursuing a career in the judiciary.
There are four levels at which an Indian citizen can become a judge:
- Magistrate/ Civil Judge (Lower Judiciary)
- Sessions Judge/District Judge (Higher Judiciary)
- High Court
- Supreme Court
Let us look at each one:
- Magistrate/ Civil Judge (Lower Judiciary)
The age eligibility for becoming a judge in the lower judiciary is that a candidate should be below 32-25 years old (the age limit varies from State to State). The candidate should have completed either the 5-year integrated law course (as in the case of CLAT) or should have completed an LL.B. degree post his/her graduation. This makes one eligible to appear for the State Judicial Services examination. The notification for the examination is usually published on the website of the State Public Service Commission or other State Government website. The application process is online for the preliminary examination, which is of a multiple-choice objective type pattern. After qualifying the preliminary examination, the names of successful candidates are listed on the website of the respective High Courts, and then, in order to appear for the Main examination (a full-length written examination), the candidates must submit the duly filled printout of the application form, along with self-attested copies of the relevant certificates/documents. The third and final stage of the examination is the personal interview.
The preliminary examination comprises two papers, Paper I being for 150 marks and Paper II being for 350 marks. Paper I comprises General Knowledge questions, including questions based on topics relating to the History of India and Indian Culture, Geography of India, Indian Polity, Current National Issues and topics of Social relevance, India and the World, Indian Economy, International Affairs and Institutions and development in the field of Science and Technology, Communications and Space. As per the notification, the nature and standards of questions in this paper will be such that a well- educated person will be able to answer them without any specialized study. Paper II deals with questions on events in India and the World, especially in the field of Law, including:
(iii) Current International Affairs
(iv) Indian Constitution
(v) Transfer of Property Act
(vi) Indian Evidence Act
(vii) Indian Penal Code
(viii) Civil Procedure Code
(ix) Criminal Procedure Code
(x) Law of Contract
The mains examination has five papers: (1) General Knowledge; (2) Language (which has four parts- (i) English Essay, (ii) English Précis writing; (iii) Translation of passage from Hindi to English; (iv) Translation of passage from English to Hindi; (3) Substantive Law (The law of contracts, the law of Partnership, the law concerning easements and torts, the Law relating to transfer of property including the principles of equity, specifically applicable thereto, the principal of Equity with special reference to the Law of trust and specific relief, Hindu Law and Mohammedan Law, and Constitutional Law. Note: 50 marks are allocated for questions in relation to Constitutional Law alone); (4) Procedure and Evidence (the law of evidence, the Criminal Procedure Code and Code of Civil Procedure, including the principles of pleading. The questions will relate mainly to practical matters such as the framing of charges and issues the methods of dealing with the evidence of witnesses the writing of judgment and the conduct of cases generally. But this list is only indicative); (5) Penal, Revenue and Local Laws (this comprises many of the State laws, which differ from State to State. Take for example, U.P.- Indian Penal Code, the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act 1951, Uttar Pradesh Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act 1972. U.P. Municipalities Act, U.P. Panchayat Raj Act, U.P. Consolidation of Holdings Act, U.P. Urban (Planning and Development) Act 1973, together with rules framed under the aforesaid Acts).
The personality test/interview is usually of 100 marks. The suitability of candidates is assessed with respect to their merit, ability, character, personality etc.
This is the oft-taken route for entrance in the judiciary. As discussed before, it may not match law firm jobs in terms of the pay ‘package’ but the prestige and perks associated with it are at a different level. Plus, for someone who is passionate about interpreting the law and making a change, this is a career of choice.
As the syllabus indicates, most of the subjects will already have been covered during the law course at the Bachelor’s level. It is only the local laws that usually need to be studied afresh by the candidates. A thorough revision of notes and solving past-year papers would help in this examination.
2.Sessions Judge/District Judge (Higher Judiciary)
A candidate should be a minimum of 35 years of age and maximum 45 years (there may be variations from State to State). The candidate should also have a valid law degree and have practiced law for a period not less than 7 years after which the person has to clear the State Higher Judiciary Examination.
A Magistrate/Civil Judge can also be promoted as a member of the Higher Judicial Services after completing a certain amount of service.
There is no examination to be appointed as a judge of the High Court. The appointment is made by the President on the recommendation of the collegium. For appointment as a judge of a High Court, the person must be an Indian citizen who has worked as a judge in any court in India for a period not less than ten years. Advocates with a ten year standing in any High Court are also eligible. There is no lower age limit for appointment as a High Court judge.
As in the case of the High Courts, there is no examination for appointment as a Supreme Court judge. Here also, the appointment is made by the President on the recommendation of the collegium. The candidate must have been a judge of a High Court or two or more such courts in succession for at least five years or he must have been an advocate of a high court or two or more such courts in succession for at least ten years, or he must be a distinguished jurist in the opinion of the President of India.
The road to the higher courts may seem tedious to fresh law graduates or CLAT aspirants, but one should, as with all other things, take it one step at a time, and with that belief and consistent hard work, no examination is hard to crack.