By Mounavarshika K.R
Judiciary forms a bulwark of the constitutional mandate to protect the interests of the people. Justice N.L Untwalia has compared the Judiciary to “a watching tower above all the big structures of the other limbs of the state from which it keeps a watch like a sentinel on the functions of the other limbs of the state as to whether they are working in accordance with the law and the Constitution, the Constitution being supreme”.
The single integrated Judicial system in India provides for a three-tier hierarchy of courts with the Supreme Court at the apex level, followed by High Courts and District Courts Judges are indispensable to the Judicial structure and they play a pivotal role.
A Judge performs multi-faceted functions and renders justice, by adjudicating disputes and complaints in accordance with the law.
The positions of Judges are coveted and are held in high regard because of their esteemed service to the public cause. Hence, it is pertinent for Judicial service aspirants to be aware of the process to become a judge in India and have all the imperative details concerning the procedure.
This article will serve as a step-by-step guide for an individual who wishes to become a judge.
What are the Educational Qualifications to become a judge?
- Step 1
Passing your 12th-grade exam from any school or pre-university college is a requisite for any professional degree. Similarly, a candidate must have completed their 12th grade to become a judge.
The candidate could have opted for any stream – Science, Commerce, or Humanities. The percentage and grades will vary according to the college the candidate wishes to apply for.
- Step 2
Primary qualification to become a judge, an aspirant must have a law degree, LLB (Bachelor of Laws) from a University/ Institution recognized by the Bar Council of India.
A candidate has two options to pursue an LLB degree program and can choose according to their convenience or inclination. The degree can be a 5 year integrated Law Degree or a 3 year LLB degree.
- Option 1 – 5 year integrated Law Degree
The 5-year integrated course can be pursued straight after class 12. A candidate can choose any University along with their choice, of course, that is either BA./BBA/B.com/B.Sc. LL. B degree.
A student must write competitive exams to ensure admission to some of the leading Institutes in the country. Some prominent law entrance exams to prestigious and distinguished legal Institutions are CLAT, AILET, SET, LSAT CLAT is an entrance exam that is conducted across the nation for students who wish to secure admissions in the pioneer Institutions in the country.
The admissions, through this exam, are offered by 22 National Law Universities across the nation.
- Option 2- 3 year LLB degree
A 3 year LLB degree is specifically designed for students who were earlier unsure on what career path they would like to choose. Some prominent law entrance exams for graduate students to pursue LLB in leading Institutes across the nation are LSAT India, DU LLB, AP LAWCET, BHU- UET.
Under Graduation Degree (Mandatory)
A bachelor degree’s is a prerequisite to pursuing a 3 year LLB degree, however, there are no restrictions on the nature of subjects to be studied in the degree.
For an individual to secure admission in a law school for a 3 year LLB degree they must have a bachelor’s degree.
Is a Post- Graduation, Ph.D., or LLM mandatory to become a Judge?
There is no mandate that a candidate has to have completed post-graduation to become a Judge. However, upon a candidate’s discretion, he can pursue any of these courses to enhance his knowledge and grasp of the subjects.
Steps 1 and 2 are mandatory and are basic and minimum qualifications required to be completed to become a Judge in any Court of India irrespective of whichever specific Court a candidate wishes to be a part of.
Detailed steps will be provided to become judges of the respective Courts based on the hierarchy of courts in India. Criteria and procedure differ for Supreme Court, High Courts, and Sub-ordinate Courts respectively.
Hierarchy Of Indian Courts
Before we look into the detailed procedure to become a Judge of different courts it is essential to be well versed in the Hierarchal structure of the Indian Judiciary.
Indian Judiciary system is a three-tier structure and consists of Supreme Court, at the apex level, followed by the High Court and Subordinate Court respectively.
How to become a Judge in the Subordinate Courts / District Courts / Lower Courts?
The Courts at the district level and below are known as Subordinate Court and they function at the bottom rung of the three-tier hierarchy of the Indian judicial system. Because of their position in the hierarchy they are also called Lower Courts or district courts.
After successful completion of an LLB degree, an aspirant has to successfully pass the State Judicial services exam for recruitment to subordinate judicial services.
The State government, under the supervision of High Courts, appoints members of the lower judiciary based on this competitive exam.
What is Judicial Services Examination?
Higher Judicial Services Examination or the PCS (J)-Provincial Civil Service-Judicial Examination are exams for law graduates to become members of the subordinate judiciary. A graduate fresh out of law school can become a Subordinate Court judge only through this exam.
In India, most states conduct their own State Judicial Service Examinations. Each of these State Judicial Services conducts its recruitment, usually through examinations and interviews.
The syllabus, nature of recruitment, and eligibility criteria differ from state to state. The minimum age required to be eligible for the examination is 21 years, and the maximum age is 35 years but this may vary from state to state.
Aspirants must take note that there are 2 entry levels to the judicial services:
- Lower Judicial Services -Specifically designed for fresh graduates and requires no prior experience. An entrance exam is conducted by the respective state public service commissions. The Lower Judicial Services have fixed promotions.
- Higher Judicial Service (HJS)- This service is open for practicing lawyers It prescribes certain years of experience usually a minimum of 7 years. The applicants have higher chances of being posted as additional district Judge However clearing the HJS examination is quite challenging, and the competition is higher.
To get through the examination, a candidate can either adopt a meticulous self-study mechanism with a detailed plan or can take the assistance of a coaching institute.
Judicial Services Examination– Exam Structure
Please note that the structure and syllabus may vary from state to state and the information provided below is merely a general description.
Judicial Service Examination is held in three stages:
- Preliminary Examination– The preliminary examination is objective type. The marks secured in the preliminary examination do not account for final selection. The percentages of qualifying marks may vary from state to state.
- Mains Examination– The mains examination is generally subjective type. They are usually three to four papers an aspirant has to write. The marks secured by candidates will be assessed and will be counted for the final selection of the candidate. Following this Candidates will be called for an Interview.
- Viva-Voce/Personal Interview– This is the final leg of selection. Thorough knowledge about current affairs, basic general knowledge, substantial and procedural laws are essential.
- Syllabus – The syllabus varies across states. It may be divided into Civil law, Criminal Law, and Language. The mains examination consists of six to seven papers.
Appointment Of District Judges/ Subordinate Judges
Having regard to the huge backlog of cases and the recommendations of the Law Commission in its 120th Report the Standing Committee of Parliament in its 85th Report and the observations of the Chief Justice of India, in 2002, the Supreme Court felt that it was constitutionally obliged to ensure that the disposal of cases was increased because “an independent and efficient judicial system is one of the basic structures of our Constitution. If a sufficient number of judges are not appointed, justice would not be available to the people, thereby undermining the basic structure”.
Hence, it was instructed that a large number of appointments be made to fill vacancies in subordinate courts.
According to Article 236(a) The expression ‘District Judge’ includes judge of a city civil Court, additional district judge, joint district Judge, assistant district Judge, Chief Judge of a small cause Court, chief presidency magistrate, additional chief presidency magistrate, sessions judge, additional sessions judge and assistant sessions judge.
A District and Session judge are the top Judges (Chief Judge of a District Court) in a Subordinate Court. Under Article 233(1) appointment, posting, and promotion of district Judges in a State are made by the Governor in consultation with the High Court.
Eligibility Criteria for District Court judges.
Under Article 233(2), a person not already in the ‘service of the State’ is eligible to be appointed as a district judge only if—
- He has been for not less than seven years an Advocate or a pleader, and
- Is recommended by the High Court for such an appointment.
The judges from the first source are appointed in consultation with the High Court (Article 233(1)), and those from the second source are appointed on the recommendation of the High Court (Article 233(2)).
No one can be appointed from the Bar until and unless his name is recommended by the High Court.
How are Subordinate Judges Appointed?
Below the district judges, there are other subordinate courts. According to Article 234, the appointment of persons, other than district judges, to the State judicial service is made by the Governor in accordance with the rules made by him for the purpose after consultation with the State Public Service Commission and the High Court.
After successfully passing the State Judicial Services Examination candidates will be appointed to subordinate courts. Sub-ordinate judiciary / District Judiciary
The Supreme Court has emphasized again and again the maintenance of independence and integrity of the subordinate judiciary which is closest to the people.
How to become a Judge of the High Court?
The High Courts come below the Supreme Court in the hierarchy of courts. The institution of the High Courts dates back to 1862 when under the Indian High Courts Act, 1861, High Courts were established at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. In due course of time, other High Courts were also established.
Article 214 establishes that each state should have a High Court. However, according to Article 231(1), Parliament may establish by law a common High Court for two or more States.
For example, Bombay High Court has jurisdiction over the State of Goa and the Union Territory of Daman, Diu, Dadra & Nagar.
Appointment of High Court Judges
According to constitutional provision Article 217(1),
The High Court Judges are appointed by the President after consulting the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State concerned and, in case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chief Justice of the High Court to which the appointment is to be made is also consulted.
Eligibility Criteria to become a High Court Judge.
Article 217(2) of the Constitution lays down the criteria;
- A person to be appointed as a High Court Judge should be a citizen of India;
- He must have held a judicial office in India, OR
- Been an advocate of a High Court, for at least ten years
Unlike the Supreme Court, the Constitution makes no provision for the appointment of a jurist as a High Court Judge.
To be appointed as a judge in High Court a candidate has to have served in judicial office for 10 years in the territory of India.
The term ‘judicial office’ has not been defined in the Constitution but, according to the Court, holder of ‘judicial office’ under Article 217(2)(a) means a person who exercises only judicial functions, determines causes inter parties, and renders decisions in a judicial capacity.
The expression ‘judicial office’ “means an office that is a part of judicial service as defined under Article 236(b) of the Constitution. According to article 236 (b ), the expression judicial service means a service consisting exclusively of persons intended to fill the post of district judge and other civil judicial posts inferior to the post of the district judge.
Concerning experience, a candidate must have had a minimum of 10 years of experience as a practicing lawyer (Advocate) in any of the state High Court.
To compute ten years, the period for which a person has held a judicial office, been an advocate of a High Court, been a member of a tribunal, or held any post under the Centre or State requiring special knowledge of the law have to be counted
The Judges of the High Court have the maximum period of service up to sixty-two years. Till then they cannot be removed from their duties unless if any occurrence of misbehaviour or incapability is proved and seconded by two-third of members of both houses of parliament through voting.
How to become a Judge of the Supreme Court?
The Supreme is among the most prestigious institutions in the nation and the Judges of the Supreme Court command great respect and are distinguished jurists of immense calibre.
The Supreme Court of India was established on 28 January 1950. It sought to replace the Federal Court of India, which was earlier established under the Government of India Act 1935.
Article 124(1) establishes the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Justice of the Court is the Chief Justice of India.
Eligibility to become a Supreme Court Judge.
Article 124(3) of the Constitution lays down criteria to become a Supreme Court Judge
A person to be appointed a Supreme Court Judge should be a citizen of India.
- Either a Judge of a High Court (or High Courts) for five years, or
- An advocate of a High Court (or High Courts) for ten years, or,
- May be, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist.
Appointment of Supreme Court Judges
According to Article 124(2), the Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President. While appointing the Chief Justice, the President consults Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
President appoints other judges after consultation with the Chief Justice of India though he may also consult such other Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts as he may deem necessary.
Whenever a vacancy arises in the office of a Judge of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of India initiates a proposal and forwards his recommendation to the government.
Vacancy of Post of Judge of Supreme Court in India
Article 124 (4) prescribes the methods of how the post of a judge may fall vacant. These are
- Retirement on completion of 65th year of age,
- Removal through impeachment.
The position of a Judge is most reverent and requires a duty-oriented approach by aspirants. The profession is a prestigious one albeit a very challenging one.
Each aspirant must take a look at their interests and options before choosing to opt for Judicial Services. Dedication and perseverance are key qualities that will aid any candidate to successfully realize his goal.
- M.P Jain, Indian Constitutional Law.
Justice R.V. Raveendran, “ How to be a Good Judge -Advice to New Judges”, available at How to be a Good Judge (last visited on July 3, 2021)