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Answered: In the context of the recent decision by Bihar government to place 50 per cent reservations in judicial services, discuss its implications on the justice delivery system in India.


Bihar government recently approved 50% reservation in state judicial services such as district judges, pursuant to the Supreme Court verdict in State of Bihar vs Dayanand Singh case, 2016. The verdict opined that reservation was necessary, but asked the state government and the Patna High Court to frame the policy together, as contemplated under Articles 233 and 234 of the constitution.

The breakdown of the reservation is a vertical reservation of 50% – 21% EBCs, 12% OBCs, 16% SCs, and 1% STs, and a horizontal reservation of 35% for women as well as 1% reservation for differently-abled persons. The former is sanctioned under Article 16(4) of the constitution, while the latter is sanctioned under Articles 16(1) and 15(3) of the constitution.

Positive implications of the justice delivery system in India

  1. Will increase social sensitivity amongst the lower judiciary, which is mostly staffed by members of upper castes.
    2. Will increase the fairness in verdicts against lower castes. At present, there are instances where upper caste accused are provided milder forms of punishments whereas the accused from lower caste are provided stricter punishments for the same crime.
    3. Will repose the faith of the marginalized sections in the judiciary. At present, these sections do not appeal to higher courts since they fear that the higher courts will also be biased, after having experienced caste-bias in the lower courts.
    4. Will lead to such demands from other states, or lead to suo motu adoption by other state governments, leading to an increase in socially sensitive judges.
    5. Reservation for women will decrease gender inequality and encourage more women to join judiciary. Better awareness about laws amongst women will also lead to positive spill-over effects on the social fabric of the country.
    6. Will make judiciary more representative, by elevation of judges from marginalized sections to higher judiciary (HCs and SC). It will also help in decreasing the vacancies and reducing the pendency of cases in lower courts.

Negative implications on justice delivery system in India

  1. Will lead to intensification of caste-based vote-bank politics.
    2. As a flipside to increasing the fairness, it can also result in lower punishments being awarded if the accused and judge belong to the same caste. E.g: Disproportionate assets case against Lalu Yadav was dismissed by a judge belonging to the same community as the former.
    3. Reservation, in its present form, perpetuates the very caste system and social inequality that it sought to eradicate.
    4. Will hamper the belief that judiciary, being the custodian of the constitution and the guarantor of fundamental rights of the citizens, must be staffed on merit and not through quota.

Judiciary is tasked with maintaining and enforcing the rule of law and adhering to the law of the land – the constitution. Keeping in mind the social conditions of the country and the present state of the justice delivery system, the move is a progressive one. However, there is a simultaneous need to reform the police and other aspects of the criminal justice system, to ensure that social and political justice, as envisaged in the constitution, is made available to every citizen.


 

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