13. Judicial Training & Education - Status, Needs, Organization & Strategies



13.1.1 After a long period of relative neglect and low priority, judicial education holds out the promise of organized action in the coming years at the hands of the authorities in India . The decision of the First National Judicial Pay Commission to give the subject the attention it deserves while recommending the restructuring of the status and service conditions of what the Constitution of India calls the "Subordinate Courts" (Chapter VI, Articles 233-237) is a welcome development not only for the institution but also for the litigant public. The immediate provocation for the initiative came from a 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court in All India Judges' Association V. Union of India & Others (AIR 1992 SC 165) reiterated in another judgment on a Review Petition in 1993 (AIR 1993 SC 2493). Chief Justice Ranganatha Misra who wrote the judgment on behalf of himself, Justices A.M. Ahmadi and P.B. Sawant said :

"One of the claims advanced before us was for provision of inservice training for judicial officers. This we consider as a must ... We are of the view that inservice institutes are indispensable for the upkeep of the efficiency of judicial service. We direct that an All India Institute of Inservice Training for higher officers of the judiciary including the District Judges and a State level institute for training of the other members of the subordinate judiciary within each of the States and Union Territories or one common institute for more than one State or Union Territory should be set up within one year from now and at any rate not later than December 31, 1992. This has to be organized by respective High Courts" (emphasis added).

It is refreshing to note that claim for in-service training came as a demand from the judicial officers themselves in their petition before the Supreme Court. They must have experienced how the lack of such training affected their capacity to perform better in their judicial and administrative functions.

13.1.2 The Supreme Court did consider the item as a priority issue and mandated the setting up of two sets of judicial training institutions - one for higher judicial officers including the District Judges at the all India level and another for State/Union Territory at the State or regional levels - by the end of 1992 and imposed the organizational responsibility on the High Courts. Six years later, the scheme has not taken off from the drawing board stage. Hopefully, the High Courts which have been given the responsibility will now act on the basis of the Report of the National Judicial Pay Commission and ensure that the institutes are in place at least in beginning of the next millenium which incidentally is just two years away.

Law Commission Recommendations :

13.1.3 The need for raising the competency of judicial officers for better performance of the judicial system was highlighted by several reports of the Law Commission of India beginning with the Fourteenth Report (Reform of Judicial Administration, Volume I, Chaper-9, Subordinate Judiciary) in 1958. The report said :

"The problem of efficient judicial administration, whether at the level of the superior courts or the subordinate courts, is largely the problem of finding capable and competent judges and judicial officers. Delays in the disposal of cases and the accumulation of arrears are in a great measure due to the inability of the judicial officers to arrange their work methodically and to appreciate and apply the provisions of the Procedural Codes ... However, well framed the substantive law and carefully designed the procedural law, the proper application and working of these laws lies largely in the hands of the officers presiding over the courts. Even if these laws were perfect, we would need adequately trained and capable judicial officers to apply and administer them. Without such personnel, administration of justice can never be satisfactory". (p.161).

13.1.4 Reiterating the increasing importance of training to judicial officers, the Setalvad Commission report added : "... Not only has the volume and variety of the work increased but the pace at which a munsiff has to perform his duties has quickened. Unless a young officer is given the proper training, he is likely to acquire by reason of his inexperience, un-businesslike habits which he may find it difficult to shed later on and which may prevent him from becoming an efficient judge. A certain amount of training in the administrative work of a court is also essential to a fresh entrant into the service from the Bar, if he is not to be at the mercy of his office clerks" (p.178).

13.1.5 The Fifty-fourth Report of the Law Commission in 1973 further emphasized the subject and recommended the immediate setting up of a National Academy for Judicial Training. It said :

"Even at the cost of repetition, we wish to emphasize that the success of any system, and particularly the judicial system depends on the men who work the system...Successful completion of the training should be a condition precedent to confirmation of appointment in the judiciary".

13.1.6 Keeping in mind the changed role of judges in the independent Republic of India , the Gajendragadkar Commission added : "The subjects to be included should be such as to deal with the relationship of law to other social sciences, including, in particular, economics and sociology. The emphasis should not be on technical law or procedure, but on law as a part of an inter-disciplinary study and on the application of the law to the facts of a particular case....A subject of importance is the effect of social change on legal institutions..".

13.1.7 It is in the light of the jurisprudential view of the judicial role that judicial training should be organized. "The law is predominantly an instrument of social engineering in which conflicting pulls of political philosophy, economic interests and ethical values struggle for recognition. This struggle has to be viewed against the background of history, tradition and development of legal techniques. A working knowledge of those disciplines is therefore essential". (p. 332-333, 54th Report).

13.1.8 The One Hundred and Seventeenth Report of the Law Commission is devoted entirely to the subject of training of judicial officers (November 1986). The report found, quoting approvingly the comment on the American judicial system by the then Chief Justice of that country, "... In the final third of the century, we are still trying to operate courts with fundamentally the same basic methods, the same procedures and the same machinery which Roscoe Pound found were not good enough" even at the turn of the century a hundred years ago ! As Lord Devlin said of the British Justice System, "If our business methods were as antiquated as our legal system, we would have become a bankrupt nation long back". The Law Commission Report therefore concluded that the "updating of the knowledge and skills can hardly be left to the voluntary effort of individual judges.." It is conceded that training can significantly upgrade the capability of everyone called upon to perform a duty. It is all the more so in the case of judicial officers, because sociology of law is acquiring new and added significance in the development of the society". (p. 2 of 117th Report).

13.1.9 The importance and urgency of pre-service and in-service training for judicial officers have again been reiterated in the 114th Report on Gram Nyayalaya (participatory justice at the grassroot level) and the 116th Report in which the Commission recommended the scheme for an all-India Judicial Service.

13.1.10 It is thus beyond doubt that there is an imperative need for organized programme of judicial education and training not only at the time of selection and appointment, but on a continuing basis during service. It is also clear that the primary reason for judicial delays, repeated appeals and legal uncertainties, inter alia, can be traced to the lack of required competence in terms of updated knowledge and skills on the part of judicial officers at several levels of the system. In short, there is no substitute to organized and appropriate training on a continuing basis which requires priority attention in the judicial reform agenda. The occasion of the introduction of all-India Judicial Service should provide the opportunity for a meaningful, nation-wide programme of judicial education to prepare the system to respond to the challenges of the next millenium with competence and confidence.