by Ummar Jamal
Jammu and Kashmir High Court invited applications for filling up seven posts of district judges in 2019. In the written examination 217 candidates appeared but none of them qualified.
Recently result of the direct recruitment of district judges to Jammu and Kashmir higher judicial service was released and none of the 217 candidates appearing for written examination was selected. It tout de suite became a talking point for the people across Jammu and Kashmir. The news made the candidates appearing for the examination butt of satire.
Basically, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court invited applications for filling up seven posts of district judges in 2019. The written examination was held on September 18 and 19, 2021 and the result was declared on January 21, 2022. A total number of 217 had appeared in the written examination and none of them qualified for the examination.
This was not the first time that this examination was not qualified by a single candidate. It was the fifth time when no lawyer was able to qualify the direct recruitment for the district judge examination in Jammu and Kashmir. What are the reasons for not a single person being able to qualify the examination? This is not peculiar with Jammu and Kashmir only. It has happened before in other states as well. For example in 2019 no candidate passed the preliminary examination of the direct recruitment examination of district judges in Tamil Nadu. As many as 3562 lawyers had applied for direct recruitment to the post of the district judge. Of these 3562 lawyers, none was able to clear the preliminary examination conducted by the Madras High Court.
Similarly, Puducherry Judicial Services invited applications for one vacancy of the district judge. Lawyers appeared in the examination and none qualified.
There are various reasons behind it. First and foremost, we should understand the judicial service examination is a different examination, unlike UPSC or civil service examinations at the State level etc. Unlike other competitive examinations, where the highest scorers are selected for particular designations, in this examination, the candidates had to secure qualifying marks which is usually 55 per cent of the total marks.
In the recent examination conducted by Jammu and Kashmir High court, a candidate has to at least secure 96 marks out of 160 if they belonged to open merit and 80 marks out of 160 if they belonged to any reserved category.
Thus, if a person from open merit had to qualify for the examination he had to secure 55 per cent marks. However, if we see the UPSC toppers of the years 2015, 2019 and 2020, none of them secured 55 per cent marks.
In 2015 Tina Dabi topped the UPSC and secured 52 per cent, in 2019 Pradeep Kumar secured 52.9 per cent and in 2020 Subham Kumar secured 52 per cent. This is a pointer towards the fact that this examination is different from other exams.
In direct recruitment of district judges, various competent young lawyers are barred from appearing in the examination by prescribing two essential qualifications for the candidates – 7 years of experience as advocate and pleader and minimum age of 35 years.
Article 233(2) of the Indian constitution says,() “A person not already in the service of the Union or of the State shall only be eligible to be appointed a district judge if he has been for not less than seven years an advocate or a pleader”
Moreover, a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra in 2020 said that “For the purpose of Article 233(2), an Advocate has to be continuing in practice for not less than seven years as on the cutoff date and at the time of appointment as a district judge. Members of judicial service having seven years’ experience of practice before they have joined the service or having a combined experience of seven years as lawyer and member of the judiciary are not eligible to apply for direct recruitment as a District Judge.”
As a result of this bar many capable and skilled lawyers who have not seven years of experience as pleaders and are of 35 years of age are unable to appear in the examination. Otherwise, they could have passed these examinations.
A Tough Examination
In fact, the examination for district judges is very tough in comparison to other competitive exams. The syllabus for the examination is very lengthy. Owing to the prolixity of the syllabus it becomes difficult for a candidate to secure 55 per cent marks.
To understand the point we can take an example of the 2014 Delhi Judicial Services for district and session judges, in which at least 65 sitting judges of other states flunked the test. In the 2014 Delhi Judicial Services examination for district and session judges there was a total of 1000 applicants. Out of them, only 115 qualified for the 85 posts available and of the 885 who failed, 68 were judges in other states.
We cannot say the 68 judges who did not qualify were incompetent, but instead, it reflects the complexity of the examination. In the same way, we cannot make a general statement that lawyers who flunked in the test are incapable, rather we should try to understand the nature and typicality of the examination.
(Author is a law student at the University of Kashmir. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)